You can now sign up for a 10-day mission aboard the International Space Station (ISS) — if you've got $55 million to spare.
That's the price just announced by Axiom Space, a Houston-based company that's organizing expeditions to the ISS and working to build the first commercial space station. The $55 million covers the orbital stay, transportation to and from the ISS, and a 15-week astronaut-training program.
Axiom Space aims to launch its first customers in 2020, company representatives said. [6 Private Deep-Space Habitats Paving the Way to Mars]
"It is an honor to continue the work that NASA and its partners have begun, to bring awareness to the profound benefits of human space exploration and to involve more countries and private citizens in these endeavors," Axiom Space CEO and President Michael Suffredini, who managed NASA's ISS program for a decade, said in a statement.
Axiom Space is also developing its own station, the modules of which will launch toward, and link up with, the ISS. The Axiom station will be ready to accommodate paying passengers by 2022 if all goes according to plan, company representatives have said.
The commercial outpost will still be attached to the ISS at that point. When the huge, $100 billion orbital outpost is ready to be deorbited, the Axiom station will detach and begin flying freely. (Exactly when this will happen is unclear; the ISS is currently funded through 2024, but it's possible that operations could be extended beyond that date.)
The commercial station's interiors are being designed in partnership with French architect Philippe Starck, so they'll be quite a bit different from the utilitarian spaces of the ISS.
"This is a dream project for a creator like me with a genuine fascination for aviation and space exploration," Starck said in the same statement. "The greatest human intelligence in the world focuses on space research. My vision for the habitation module on Axiom Station is to create a comfortable egg that is inviting, with soft walls and a design perfectly in harmony with the values and movements of the human body in zero gravity."
Tourists have visited the ISS before. Seven folks took a total of eight trips to the orbiting lab from 2001 through 2009, paying an estimated $20 million to $40 million each time.
And Axiom Space isn't the only company working to develop a commercial space station. For example, in April, a startup called Orion Span announced that it aims to have a "luxury space hotel" operating in Earth orbit by 2022.
Bigelow Aerospace, a company that makes expandable space habitats, has also expressed a desire to set up outposts in Earth orbit, as well as in other locales, such as the surface of the moon.
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