In 1984, during the Reagan administration, the law that established NASA was amended to encourage private privatization from Earth: “For the common good of the United States, the National Aviation and Space Administration should seek and promote as much as possible the full commercial use of space.”
For human space travel, early commercialization efforts were triggered. After the loss of the Challenger in 1986, plans to privatize the operation of NASA’s spacecraft were put on hold.
On the contrary, in the latter years of communism the Soviet space program was far ahead of NASA in selling access to space. In 1990, Toyohiro Akiyama, a Japanese television reporter, flew on the Soviet space station Miruk Soyuz rocket. The cost of the trip was paid for by his employer, the Tokyo Broadcasting System.
At the same time, a group of British companies sponsored a competition to send the first British citizen into space. The winner was chemist Helen Sherman. He visited Mir in 1991. At the end of the decade, after the break-up of the Soviet Union, Russia leased MirCorp to a Russian-American business venture.
An American, Jeffrey Manber, ran MirCorp, and he wanted to turn the space station into a hub for tourism and entertainment. NBC commissioned a reality TV show, produced by Mark Burnett, creator of “Survivor” and “The Apprentice”.
“If you wanted to work with bosses in space in the 1990s, you worked with the Russians,” he said. Manber joked in an interview in 2018. “If you wanted to work with the Socialists, you worked with NASA.”
MirCorp’s dreams did not come true because NASA insisted that Russia cut off Mir and focus on the International Space Station.
To the shock of NASA officials, Russia sold missions to the International Space Station. Dennis Tito, an American entrepreneur, was the first Russian tourist at the station in 2001. But in 2009 Russia stopped taking private travelers, and NASA had to buy seats on Russian rockets as the upcoming spacecraft retired. Its astronauts will visit the space station.
SpaceX can now provide transportation for US astronauts and as NASA is no longer a paying customer, Russia has resumed selling rides to the space station. Last trips of 2021 A Russian director and actress is filming a movie And Yusaku Mesawa, a Japanese millionaireAnd his assistant.
Over the past few years, NASA has opened up to the idea of space tourism. It is hoped that private companies will be able to put business sites into orbit to eventually transform the International Space Station. Jim Friedenstein was a NASA administrator during the Trump administrationThere is a lot of talk about NASA being a customer of many and how it can greatly reduce the cost to NASA.
But for NASA to be a customer of many, there must be other customers. Eventually, other applications such as drug research or zero gravity production may finally pay off.
But for now, the rich who pay to go into space are the most promising market.