For a while, the thought of a normal person traveling into space seemed like a far off dream. So far, only the smartest and most skilled have been able to travel to this deep, vast void. Now, thanks to a shift in NASA’s goals and recent technology, space travel for normies is here! Well, sort of. Last Friday the federal agency announced it would be bringing businesses and private citizens up to the cosmos. However, unless you’re the next Elon Musk or Weyland Yutani Corporation, good luck getting up there.
While in low-orbit on the International Space Station, astronauts and companies will be encouraged to work on specific, commercial enterprises. The hope is that over time, companies will develop products that can support a new, growing space economy. NASA has already built 14 facilities with 11 different companies to make sure the station can support this research. Let’s just hope they haven’t installed an Alexa or Siri on board yet—we don’t need another “Hal” situation on our hands.
Before you prepare to write NASA a check, you should be warned—space travel is very expensive and has very particular requirements. According to the New York Times, a passenger aboard the ISS will cost a company $35,000 a night. This cost includes amenities like air, wifi, water, and the toilet, but it won’t help you book your galactic flight. Private astronaut missions will only happen twice a year with carefully chosen individuals trained in both NASA and ISS protocol. NASA hopes to have individuals visiting the ISS as soon as 2020, with trips lasting up to 30 days. Of course, those lucky enough to visit in the coming year will also have to be super smart, entrepreneurial and, ahem, rich.
Besides the funds and extensive planning, companies and individuals must also have specific products planned for their trip. These products must utilize the microgravity environment for production, have a connection to NASA’s goals, and support the future space economy. Research is already being done on manufacturing and production in space, but not with stuff we can buy. With this new development, NASA will be able to see how weightless manufacturing can help create new merchandise. If everything goes according to plan, private companies will soon be able to set up shop in low-orbit.
Basically, don’t be surprised if “Made in Outer Space” starts appearing on your smartphone or other electronics in the future. Though I am beginning to wonder…will we need to develop a galactic currency? Will a space phone be more expensive than a regular, earth phone? Are we inviting future capitalist overlords to not only take over the world, but space?! I guess only time will tell.
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