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SpaceX, Boeing to fly holiday-makers to the International Space Station from 2020

AP, June 11, 2019 6:45PM Kids News

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French Austronaut Thomas Pesquet juggling and eating macarons in 2017 on the International Space Station. The biscuits were specially modified for consumption in space by French master pastry chef Pierre Herme. Picture: AFP/European Space Agency/NASA media_cameraFrench Austronaut Thomas Pesquet juggling and eating macarons in 2017 on the International Space Station. The biscuits were specially modified for consumption in space by French master pastry chef Pierre Herme. Picture: AFP/European Space Agency/NASA

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NASA has announced it will welcome paying guests for holidays on the International Space Station.

The first holiday-maker is expected to blast off next year.

A round-trip ticket for a one-month holiday will likely cost about $83 million. Accommodation will cost about $50,000 a night, said NASA’s chief financial* officer Jeff DeWit.

Travellers don’t have to be US citizens. People from other countries will also be eligible*, as long as they fly on a US-operated rocket.

Since the US space shuttle program ended in 2011, NASA has flown astronauts to the space station aboard Russian rockets.

NASA has a deal with companies SpaceX and Boeing to fly future crewed missions to the space station. Private citizens would make their travel arrangements with and pay those two companies, according to NASA spokeswoman Stephanie Schierholz.

NASA Announces Plans To Expand Commercial Activities At International Space Station media_cameraNASA Chief Financial Officer Jeff DeWit and ISS Deputy Director Robyn Gatens announce the opening of the International Space Station to paying customers. NASA astronaut Christina Koch is shown in the ISS on the screen behind them. Picture: Getty Images/AFP

SpaceX and Boeing will then pay NASA for providing the accommodation and other essentials, such as air to breathe, Mr DeWit explained.

“If a private astronaut is on the station, they will have to pay us while they’re there for the life support, the food, the water, things of that nature,” Mr DeWit added.

NASA will probably allow up to two visitors a year, for now.

The private astronauts will have to meet the same medical standards and training processes as regular crew members.

media_cameraNASA astronaut Christina Koch, a member of the current International Space Station crew, is helped as her spacesuit is tested prior to her departure in March. Picture: AFP

The space station has welcomed tourists before, travelling on Russian rockets. In 2001, US businessman Dennis Tito became the first paid visitor and several others have followed.

The program is part of NASA’s efforts to open the station to private companies.

6/5/2001 - 60-year-old American multimillionaire Dennis Tito, center, gestures shortly after his landing in the Central Asian steppe, 80 km (50 miles) north-east of Arkalyk, Kazakstan, Sunday, May 6, 2001. The Russian Soyuz capsule carrying the world's first paying space tourist landed successfully on Sunday, ending Dennis Tito's multimillion dollar cosmos adventure. (AP Photo/Mikhial Metzel). first space tourist. media_cameraDennis Tito after his trip to the ISS and successful landing in Kazakstan in May 2001. He was the first paying space tourist. Picture: AP

Eventually, the space station will become too expensive for the US government to maintain, said NASA’s Bill Gerstenmaier. So the idea is to let private companies start using the station now and perhaps eventually take it over, he said.

NASA officials said some income from commercial* activities will help the agency focus on returning to the moon in 2024, a major goal for President Donald Trump. The agency said this will also reduce the cost to US taxpayers for this next lunar mission.

VIDEO: Take a tour of the International Space Station

A Fly-Through of the International Space Station

YOUR HOLIDAY ITINERARY
The exact itinerary* of future holidays to the International Space Station isn’t yet decided but when you’re planning a holiday it’s always helpful to know what’s happened in the past.

The launch site is usually remote and flat, such as a desert. Recent launches (run by Russia) have been in Kazakhstan, which is near Russia.

So far, 236 people from 18 countries have visited the ISS.

Currently, between three and six people are on the ISS at once, because of the limited space in the Russian Soyuz transport capsules. SpaceX and Boeing plan to be able to take more astronauts at a time.

There is more liveable space on the ISS than a five-bedroom house. There are two bathrooms, a gym and a 360-degree window. The living quarters have been described as similar to being on a Boeing 747 aeroplane.

media_cameraThe International Space Station seen from the Space Shuttle Discovery in 2009. It has a similar area of liveable space as a five-bedroom house. Picture: NASA via AP

Astronauts on the ISS mostly work on science experiments and maintenance of equipment, but they do spend at least two hours every day exercising and taking care of themselves. They also test everyday things to see how they work in space, such as coffee machines or 3D printers.

Keeping in touch with home is quite easy by video and email. They can also Google anything they like, listen to music and watch movies.

While on the ISS, you can see a sunrise and sunset every 90 minutes because you are orbiting the Earth more than 15 times in one day.

The ISS is orbiting Earth about 435km from the ground. It takes about 8 minutes for a Soyuz transport capsule to get to that height and then between 6 hours and two days to get its orbit in line with the ISS so it can dock.

GLOSSARY

  • financial: to do with money
  • eligible: allowed to join
  • commercial: money making
  • itinerary: schedule or plan

EXTRA READING

Bubble trouble in space

International Space Station turns 20 this week

How astronauts stay in touch from space

Astronauts feast for Christmas in zero gravity

QUICK QUIZ

  1. How many nights will the holiday be for and how much will it cost each night?
  2. Who will provide the air to breathe while you’re in space?
  3. What major space goal of the US government is mentioned?
  4. Can you communicate with Earth while at the ISS?
  5. How high up is the ISS?

LISTEN TO THIS STORY

CLASSROOM ACTIVITIES
1. Holiday in Space
Design a travel brochure to market this new holiday opportunity in space. Your brochure should include all the main details including:

  • Dates
  • Cost
  • Accommodation
  • Transport (how they get there)
  • How long it takes to arrive
  • What to pack
  • Things to do, etc

Present your brochure on a piece of A4 paper folded in thirds or using a computer program. Your aim is to sell this holiday to rich holiday-makers!

Time: allow 45 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Science, Digital Technologies

2. Extension
Work with a friend and make a list of POSITIVES and NEGATIVES of allowing everyday citizens to travel into space.

Time: allow 10 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Critical and Creative Thinking, Personal and Social

VCOP ACTIVITY
With a partner see if you can identify all the doing words/verbs in this text. Highlight them in yellow and then make a list of them all down your page. Now see if you and your partner can come up with a synonym for the chosen verb. Make sure it still makes sense in the context it was taken from.

Try to replace some of the original verbs with your synonyms and discuss if any are better and why.

HAVE YOUR SAY: Would space be your dream holiday destination? Is so, what would be so good about it? If not, where would prefer to go instead? Why?
No one-word answers. Use full sentences to explain your thinking. No comments will be published until approved by editors.

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