NASA opening International Space Station to tourists

NASA announced today that the International Space Station is now open to private astronauts for commercial business and, yes, tourism. It ain't budget travel, that's for sure. Kenneth Chang writes in the New York Times:

NASA is not selling space vacations directly, but allowing commercial companies to arrange such trips. The agency plans to charge the companies about $35,000 a night for use of the station’s facilities, including air and water.

The tourist companies would charge much more to cover the rocket flights to and from space, and to make a profit.

Bigelow Aerospace of North Las Vegas, Nev., has already reserved four launches. The company will use SpaceX, the rocket company run by Elon Musk, to take private astronauts. Each flight would have four seats.

Axiom Space of Houston is also arranging flights and hopes to fly tourists next year.

From NASA:

Pricing released Friday is specific to commercial and marketing activities enabled by the new directive, reflects a representative cost to NASA, and is designed to encourage the emergence of new markets. As NASA learns how these new markets respond, the agency will reassess the pricing and amount of available resources approximately every six months and make adjustments as necessary.

To qualify, commercial and marketing activities must either:

• require the unique microgravity environment to enable manufacturing, production or development of a commercial application;

• have a connection to NASA’s mission; or

• support the development of a sustainable low-Earth orbit economy.

NASA’s directive enabling commercial and marketing activities aboard the space station addresses manufacturing, production, transportation, and marketing of commercial resources and goods, including products intended for commercial sale on Earth.

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Astronaut's magnificent photo of SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule approaching the International Space Station

NASA astronaut Anne McClain captured this astonishing image of the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule approaching her temporary residence, the International Space Station. "The dawn of a new era in human spaceflight," McClain tweeted with the photo.

The SpaceX Crew Dragon, containing supplies rather than humans for this test, docked at the ISS yesterday morning and the hatch was opened a few hours ago. From NASA:

(The mission, called) Demo-1 is the first flight test of a space system designed for humans built and operated by a commercial company through a public-private partnership. The mission also marks a significant step toward returning to the nation the capability to launch astronauts on a U.S.-built spacecraft from U.S. soil.

“It’s an exciting evening,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said after the launch. “What today really represents is a new era in spaceflight. We’re looking forward to being one of many customers in a robust commercial marketplace in low-Earth orbit.”

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Beautiful video combines art and magnetism

Filmmaker Kim Pimmel combined ferrofluids, a magnet, soap bubbles, and dye to create this mesmerizing short video. Science + art = awesomesauce.

Video Link

Thanks, Brian Thomas!

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