Saturday, October 23, 2021

Nasa launches ‘civilian astronaut’ missions to space – for an out-of-this-world ticket price

Commercial spaceflights are part of Nasa's plan to develop a thriving economy outside Earth.

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As humanity prepares to set foot on Mars, private companies are also progressing in their goal to launch civilians off the planet.

Nasa and Houston, Texas-based startup Axiom Space are partnering to launch the world’s first-ever commercial spaceflight mission.

The private astronaut mission headed to the International Space Station (ISS) is set to take off soon after January 2022, the space agency has revealed.

In a teleconference on Monday, Axiom and Nasa announced the mission will be launched from Nasa’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida using a SpaceX Dragon.

The crew of four private astronauts will then spend eight days on the ISS, working and participating in activities with the station’s professional astronaut crew members.

Axiom president and CEO Michael Suffredini did not give an exact amount for the fare for the civilian astronauts’ trip to the ISS, but he said he “wouldn’t argue with” reports that the figure is in the tens of millions.

In January, The Washington Post reported that each ticket costs a staggering US$55 million.

Suffredini said, “A thriving commercial marketplace in low-Earth orbit begins with expanding access to serious, nontraditional users and that is exactly the aim of our private astronaut missions.”

Once the crew passes the qualification process, they will begin training at Nasa where they will be taught about the systems, procedures and emergency preparedness needed for their flight.

The crew’s supplies, storage and other in-orbit resources will be provided by Nasa. The space agency will pay Axiom almost US$2 million for the transportation of supplies to the ISS and scientific samples from the space station to researchers on the ground.

Commercial spaceflights are part of Nasa’s plan to develop a thriving economy outside Earth. By opening up the ISS to a variety of commercial activities, the space agency believes this could be an effective way to achieve that goal.

“We are excited to see more people have access to spaceflight through this first private astronaut mission to the space station,” said Kathy Lueders, associate administrator for human exploration and operations at Nasa.

“One of our original goals with the Commercial Crew Program, and again with our Commercial Low-Earth Orbit Development Program, is that our providers have customers other than Nasa to grow a commercial economy in low-Earth orbit.”

Tom Cruise was previously expected to be part of the Ax-1 mission as Nasa announced last year that it is working with the actor to film a movie on the ISS, CNBC reported.

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