NASA Wants Astronauts To Babysit Space Tourists; Here’s Why


NASA wants space tourists to be accompanied by former astronauts while taking private spaceflights to the International Space Station (ISS). The space agency was discreet in announcing this change on August 1. The announcement follows Axiom Space’s first private spaceflight to ISS back in April.

NASA Wants Astronauts To Babysit Space Tourists; Here’s Why

The mission featured former NASA astronaut Michael López-Alegría leading a three-person civilian crew. As per NASA, the main aim here is to offer "a link between the resident ISS expedition crew and the private astronauts and reduces risk to ISS operations and [private astronaut missions]/ISS safety."

Rule Change Might Affect Profitability

According to a report from SpaceNews, the rule change comes Axiom president and CEO Michael Suffredini said he expects to be able to send four paying customers to the International Space Station instead of three, with a former astronaut leading the mission.

Axiom’s second mission will also see an ex-NASA astronaut take command, and is said to take flight next year. The new rule could be a major hit to Axiom’s profitability in the coming days. The company is yet to comment on whether its three-civilian spaceflights are making profits or not.

Besides the new rule change, the space agency has also announced that private astronaut spaceflights are required to submit research plans a year in advance to the ISS National Laboratory. Failing to do so might refrain space tourism companies from taking their wealthy customers on a trip to space.

Safety Of Space Tourists & ISS Is Paramount

The SpaceNews report also suggests that the announcement is a response to Axiom’s rushed first spaceflight. During a conference after the mission, commander Michael López-Alegría agreed that the timeline of the mission was “aggressive” and its pace was “frenetic.”

"I think we were so focused on research and outreach in the first eight or ten days on orbit," said Michael López-Alegría, "that we needed the extra time to complete the experience by having time to look out the window, to make contact with friends and family, to just enjoy the sensation."

The move only makes sense that a seasoned NASA astronaut is needed on board to accompany space tourists to and from the International Space Station. Their experience in space makes them the ideal person to accompany space tourists.

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