Elon Musk sending 3 ‘space tourists’ to International Space Station

Three cash-flushed tourists will travel to the International Space Station aboard a SpaceX rocket next year.

The ten-day trip will see private citizens ferried to the orbiting science lab to spend time with astronauts and experience life in Zero-G.

Announced on Thursday by Axiom, a company that helps to organize private space trips, tickets for the flight will cost roughly £40million each.

One seat has already been booked by an anonymous deep-pocketed space fan, reports the New York Times.

Seven tourists have visited the station before (one even went twice) but the SpaceX mission will mark the first fully private manned trip to the craft.

“This history-making flight will represent a watershed moment in the march toward universal and routine access to space,” Axiom boss Michael Suffredini said.

“This will be just the first of many missions to ISS to be completely crewed and managed by Axiom Space – a first for a commercial entity.”

The flight will launch in late 2021 using a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket topped with one of the firm’s Crew Dragon capsules.

SpaceX, run by billionaire Elon Musk, has spent years testing the capsule and is due to fire one to the International Space Station (ISS) with Nasa astronauts on board for the first time later this year.

In total, passengers on its tourist flight will spend eight days on the lab and two days traveling to and from it.

Axios said crew will “live aboard the ISS and experience … microgravity and views of Earth that can only be fully appreciated in the large, venerable station.”

The mission was made possible after Nasa announced last year that it would start opening up the ISS to more private flights.

Previous tourist stays at the station have been orchestrated by Russia’s Roscosmos space agency, drawing fiery criticism from Nasa.

The last lifted off in 2009, shortly before the ISS expanded its capacity from three to six and it became clear that Nasa and other space agencies needed the extra seat on Russia’s Soyuz rockets for their own crew.

Each ticket on next year’s flight will cost a reported $55million (£42million), a chunk of which will go towards Nasa’s future space missions.

The space agency needs extra cash to help fund its dream of putting a man and woman on the Moon by 2024.

Keeping astronauts onboard the ISS is a pricey business.

For instance, the regenerative life support and toilet costs $11,250 (£8,800) per astronaut each day.

And general supplies – like food and air – cost $22,500 (£17,500) per astronaut each day.

Nasa will get around $35,000 (£27,000) per night that a private citizen spends onboard the ISS.

A large bank balance won’t be enough either: You’ll have to pass Nasa’s rigorous health checks and training procedures.

As part of its “commercialization” of the ISS, Nasa will be making one space station port and utilities available to private companies.

And it hopes that in the long-term, there will be lots of private space stations floating just above Earth.

“In the long-term, Nasa’s goal is to become one of many customers purchasing services from independent, commercial and free-flying habitable destinations in low-Earth orbit,” Nasa explained last year.

“A robust low-Earth orbit economy will need multiple commercial destinations and NASA is partnering with industry to pursue dual paths to that objective that either go through the space station or directly to a free-flying destination.”

Axios said it planned to launch up to two professional and private astronaut flights per year to the ISS in future.

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