The International Space Station (ISS) can start receiving tourists by 2020! Late last week, NASA announced that it will charge $35,000 a night for tourists who want to visit space and stay at the ISS for upto 30 days.
How will this work? They will need to sign up for a spot with a company like SpaceX or Boeing, to get there and back.
How much will this cost? It can cost upto $58 million per tourist!
Will this be safe? What kind of training will people require? All this still needs to be figured out.
So what is the ISS anyway? It is a giant hub, about the size of a football stadium, that orbits the Earth. They say it is in low-earth orbit, which means that it is in an area between 160 and 2,000 km above the earth’s surface. The ISS is in orbit about 400 km or 250 miles above the earth’s surface.
What happens on the ISS? It is a giant laboratory, where groups of upto 6 people can live and work. They conduct experiments in various areas such as health, meterology, and astronomy. This is an area of microgravity, which means that the gravitational force is weak here. The groups conduct experiments to understand what happens to animal and human bodies in space, to see if plants can grow in that environment, what kind of materials can be used to put out a fire in space, what happens to dust in an area of weak gravity, and other such phenomena. All of this information will help other missions in space. For example, astronauts can use the learnings to work out how to fix rovers, robots, and the like on missions to Mars or other locations, or to see what kinds of things could make an astronaut sick on a mission, and how he or she can be helped. Here is a link to some cool projects that the astronauts have worked on!
Is the ISS the first such space laboratory? No. The first major laboratory was set up by the Soviet Union and called Salyut. The next was also set up by the Soviet Union, and was called the Mir space station. This was operational from 1986 to 2001.
Who owns the ISS? The United States, Russia, China, Japan, and a group of European countries, called the European Partner.
How much does it cost to run and maintain the ISS? NASA says that it spends about $3 billion a year maintaining the ISS. The Washington Post says that the ISS has cost a total of $160 billion until now, and that the USA has spent $100 billion of that amount! That’s a lot of money, that some feel should be going towards funding other programs that NASA wants to work on.
Perhaps opening it up to tourists and earning some money from it will then free up some money for NASA to spend on the its other projects.
Got it! One last question. What happens to spacecraft that grow old? Well, it turns out that they are sent to a ‘spaceship graveyard’, in an area in the South Pacific Ocean called Point Nemo. No one lives here, or even close to here, and this is where old spacecraft and broken rocket launchers and the like are buried. This is where the Mir space station went after it came down in 2001. This will be the final resting place of the ISS as well.
Written by: Sunaina Murthy