"NASA also is enabling private astronaut missions of up to 30 days on the International Space Station to perform duties that fall into the approved commercial and marketing activities outlined in the directive released Friday, with the first mission as early as 2020", the statement read.
"This is a momentous day for, not only NASA and the space economy, but honestly for US industry as a whole", said the space agency's CFO Jeff DeWit. Rather, NASA will become one of many customers that can purchase services at the ISS at a lower cost to taxpayers than what it now costs for NASA to those things on its own, DeWit said.
Masten Space Systems CEO Sean Mahoney on the company's efforts to help design part of NASA's Artemis Lunar Lander.
Eventually, Nasa hopes the space station will be just one of several "commercial and free-flying habitable destinations in low-Earth orbit".
Though NASA estimates the Commercial Crew Program and the development of new crew-carrying spacecraft by Boeing and SpaceX will bring down the cost of travel. Two of these short-stay missions will be allowed every year, and the first tourist may go up as early as 2020 using a U.S. spacecraft by SpaceX or Boeing developed under NASA's Commercial Crew Program.
"We are announcing the availability for private astronauts to visit the space station on USA vehicles, and for companies to engage in profit-making activities on the station", said NASA CFO Jeff DeWit in a press briefing.
Depending on the market, the agency will allow up to two visitors per year, for now.
Unfortunately, the stay won't come with any Hilton or Marriott points, DeWit joked.
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.
Arrangements for the trip were being left to Boeing and SpaceX, NASA said.
President Trump, however, is not on board with NASA's plans, tweeting that the agency shouldn't be talking about the moon and should "be focused on the much bigger things we are doing, including Mars". "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". The goal is to "accelerate a thriving commercial economy in low-Earth orbit".
NASA estimated the cost of a flight would be around $50 million per seat.