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IPFS News Link • Space Travel and Exploration

Space tourism is on the rise. Can NASA keep up with it?


When Axiom Space sent the first private crew to the International Space Station earlier this year, an overly aggressive itinerary caused some ripples in the professional astronauts' work performance. Though it's unclear if the trip interfered with the ISS crew's science goals, the atmosphere aboard the station was strained—a classic example of too many cooks in the kitchen. Operations were impacted enough that the ISS and Axiom astronauts' collective experiences motivated NASA to release new rules that commercial space companies will have to adhere to if they continue to join in on spaceflight activities going forward. What those changes could look like, however, will depend on how supportive and accepting NASA is to the still-emerging industry. 

Notably, the agency could require a former NASA astronaut to act as mission commander for private spaceflights, a move that would essentially make the agency a permanent liaison between public and US-based private space commerce. (The Axiom flight did already have a former NASA astronaut on board, Michael Lopez-Alegría, along with three first-time passengers—a businessman, an investor, and a real-estate magnate).