NASA wants to open International Space Station to private travelers as early as 2020

One day soon, you won’t need to be a member of the traditional astronaut corps to visit the International Space Station. But you – or your corporate sponsors – will need very deep pockets.

“We are announcing the ability for private astronauts to visit the space station on U.S. vehicles and for companies to engage in commercial profit-making activities,” said Jeff DeWit, NASA’s chief financial advisor, at a launch event held Friday in at NASDAQ headquarters in New York.

Up to two private astronauts – who must meet the same physical requirements as any other NASA astronaut – will be allowed to fly per year and work on behalf of companies. Each seat is expected to cost more than $50 million and the first could launch as soon as 2020.

Currently, NASA astronaut candidates must meet the following qualifications: 

  • Pass an exhaustive physical exam
  • 20/20 distance and near vision in each eye (corrective lenses or corrective surgery permitted)
  • Bachelor’s degree in engineering, biological science, physical science, computer science or mathematics
  • Minimum of three years of related professional experience obtained after degree OR at least 1,000 hours pilot-in-command time on jet aircraft

Those requirements may not seem daunting but the statistics are: Of the 18,600 applications received in 2016, only 120 made it to the interview stage and a mere five candidates were accepted into the program.

Once in, astronaut candidates headed for the ISS undergo two years of basic training, during which time they must achieve competency in Russian, the technical skills need to operate the equipment on the ISS and perform spacewalks and land-and-water survival in the event a Soyuz launch is aborted or their capsule lands in the wrong place.

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