NASA to allow private citizens to fly to the International Space Station

NASA is seeking to financially disengage from the orbiting research lab

NASA anticipates making the space station available to two private missions per year, which means ISS could host as many as a dozen private astronauts per year.

Representatives of 20 companies joined NASA officials onstage to launch the space agency's new commercial plan, which allows private businesses to operate on the ISS, including "in-space manufacturing", marketing activities, healthcare research "and more". Under NASA's new policy, commercial entities will have the opportunity to broaden the scope of their activities at the orbiting lab, to include manufacturing, marketing, advertising and other for-profit activities, Robyn Gatens, NASA's deputy director for the ISS program, said at the news conference.

As record amounts of outside investment pour into the US space industry, companies like SpaceX are making the promise of cheaper commercial travel to the so-called "final frontier" more attainable.

As NASA reminded taxpayers in a statement, over 50 companies already conduct commercial research and development in the International Space Station's U.S. National Laboratory, and NASA has worked with 11 different companies to install 14 commercial facilities on the ISS. They could spend up to 30 days at a time aboard the station.

NASA plans to throw in 90 hours of full-time agency astronaut crew time for commercial operations and underwrite delivery of up to 385 pounds of cargo per mission.

A private mission on the International Space Station will cost a minimum of about $35,000 per night. The fifth part of the plan calls for NASA to lay out what exactly needs to happen to enable long-term commercial operations in long-term orbit. "Transitioning toward this new model of business is an important step to allow Nasa to move full speed ahead in landing the first woman and the next man on the moon". "And so, (private astronauts would) have to contract with them and whatever prices Boeing and SpaceX set is on them".

Unfortunately, the stay won't come with any Hilton or Marriott points, DeWit joked. "So we expect the private sector companies to do all that". NASA won't directly coordinate the trips, but companies like Axiom Space are hoping to make the arrangements.

Right now, commercial activity on the station is largely limited to science experiments.

"I's hard to project what's going to come back", DeWit said.