The International Space Station is open for commercial business.
June 7, 2019 12:46 PM   Subscribe

According to the plan outlined today, NASA will be rolling back its restrictions on for-profit and marketing activities on the space station. Companies will now be able to pay for astronauts to help advertise their products and use the space station facilities for manufacturing and other money-making ventures. NASA also says it will open the space station to short-duration stays by commercial astronauts traveling on private spacecraft, which it says could begin as early as next year. Additionally, NASA says it will lease the last open port on the ISS, where a new module can attach, to a private company and expects to award that contract by the end of the fiscal year.

The peddling of the ISS is part of a broader trend that amounts to NASA handing off its assets to private companies. In 2017 the agency announced that Kennedy Space Center, the launch site for the Apollo and Shuttle missions, would become a “multi-user spaceport,” a euphemism for leasing many of its facilities to private contractors. And last year NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine told The Washington Post that he was discussing the transfer of the ISS to a corporate conglomerate when funding ends in 2024.
posted by ragtag (68 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
 
Yeah, sounds about right.
posted by tobascodagama at 12:55 PM on June 7 [8 favorites]


I hope we at least get an OK Go video out of this.
posted by ocschwar at 12:59 PM on June 7 [40 favorites]


disgusting.
posted by boo_radley at 1:00 PM on June 7 [13 favorites]


This shift will benefit the handicap to Nwabudike Morgan, literally moving to space in an attempt to make some distance from the constant demands of Sister Miriam Godwinson as they both see the rising power of Chairman Sheng-Ji Yang's Human Hive. While some hold out hope that the planet may avenge Lady Diedre Skye, there's little evidence that the vengeance will be dealt to those who most deserve her wrath.

Outside of my computer, I'm just chalking this up as one more deliberate step in the wrong direction based on belief that if you wish something true strongly enough (like the perfect free market) you can magically change reality.
posted by meinvt at 1:03 PM on June 7 [28 favorites]


Speaking as a space/science idealist, and in full disclosure, I work at JPL (my opinion doesn't reflect the official opinion of JPL/NASA/Caltech, etc.) I'm.... pretty OK with this.

I'm of the opinion that NASA's place is on the absolute bleeding edge and forefront of human and robotic exploration, with private enterprise following behind. We know how to get people to LEO and live there on for reasonably long duration. NASA should be moving on, toward sending people to deep space.

Notwithstanding the fact that the US hasn't had the political interest in continuing the exploration of our solar system since we hitched our wagon to a platform not fit for purpose (the Space Shuttle/STS), and the fact that the Space Station has also still not evolved into a platform of the size and capability for which it had been intended, I think that low earth orbit is where we should be encouraging private space travel, even if that means allowing private astronauts to travel to national assets. Commercialization of the space station is OK with me. Ads from people on an orbital platform is very different to me from ads in orbit visible from the ground (which I'm utterly opposed to).
posted by tclark at 1:04 PM on June 7 [57 favorites]


"Anything happening under this administration is gross and scammy but OTOH I would be super excited to see freefall manufacturing start in earnest."

-- Academician Prokhor Zakharov, _For I Have Tasted The Fruit_
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 1:05 PM on June 7 [14 favorites]


NASA will allow private astronauts on the ISS for $11,250-$22,500 a day -- The space agency wants to create a sustainable economy in low Earth orbit. (Jonathan M. Gitlin for Ars Technica, June 7, 2019)
It's not quite "anything goes," though—approved activities have to have a link to NASA's mission, stimulate the development of a LEO economy, or actually require a zero-G environment. NASA has published a price list for the ISS, and it's setting aside five percent of the station's annual resources (including astronaut time and cargo mass) for commercial use.

Be prepared to pay to reach LEO. The cheapest cargo option is $3,000/kg to get it there, then an additional $3,000/kg to dispose of it in the trash. If you want it back again, that'll be a $6,000/kg return fee, although round trip prices per kg are more expensive if you need power or life support on the way home.

In addition to manufacturing and production, NASA set pricing for space tourists—it’s calling them private astronaut missions—aboard the ISS, too. Regenerative life support and toilet access? That's a snip at $11,250 per crew day. The more expensive "Crew Supplies" option—$22,500—sounds more hospitable, including as it does "food, air, crew provisions, supplies, medical kit, [and] exercise equipment." NASA says it will support up to two short-duration private missions to the ISS each year, and those missions will travel on a US launch vehicle developed under the Commercial Crew program.
Sounds like a reasonable way to ease into opening ISS to private entities, and get paid for that time. The 2013 NASA's Office of Inspector General (OIG) report, Extending the Operational Life of the International Space Station Until 2024 (PDF), shows the ISS annual operating costs at $2.9 billion, so it'll take a LOT more to make ISS "sustainable," like the USPS is self-funded.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:07 PM on June 7 [6 favorites]


I'm thinking reclamation bots that harvest space junk and turn it into immense surfaces that can be used to reflect beamed ads is a few steps away.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:09 PM on June 7 [5 favorites]


@mikamckinnon: Now that NASA is going to rent out their part of the space station for $35,000/night, I’d just like to point out it isn’t even in the Top Ten most expensive luxury hotels.
posted by zachlipton at 1:10 PM on June 7 [42 favorites]


My adult brain knows that the space program was first and foremost a cold war/military effort. The sixth-grader who was a huge fan of NASA and still has vivid memories of the classroom he was in when he heard the bulletin about Challenger?

He's pretty upset at what happens when a republic stops at least pretending that science benefits humanity.

Screw you, Biff Tannen. Your timeline is garbage.
posted by FallibleHuman at 1:10 PM on June 7 [41 favorites]


disgusting.

Care to elaborate ?
posted by Pendragon at 1:14 PM on June 7 [4 favorites]


At first I was like well this is dangerous because we all know private companies love to skimp on expenses despite the consequences and have their priorities upside down in a way that leads to accidents and then I was like but so does NASA so 6 of one half dozen of another.
posted by bleep at 1:17 PM on June 7 [1 favorite]


Whatever helps get us back to the Moon (which is a part of Mars) is fine by me.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 1:22 PM on June 7 [2 favorites]


NASACAR
posted by benzenedream at 1:24 PM on June 7 [36 favorites]


I remember when space was supposed to be collectively owned by humanity, not sold off to the highest bidder and colonized. I mean, sure, Space Race, etc...

But this is how it starts. It might sound noble "free NASA to do the big things" but that alone is etching the foundation of a privatized space future (hahahaha, fuck why do I care, there is no future, we're just gonna die with the way we run things here anyways, so go ahead, fuck off to space, rich assholes, let the rest of us to rot here on earth, the one home planet we have. I hope you enjoy your disgorged eyes and radiated testicles in those tincans)...

Space used to be cool. Space still is cool. Cooler than any human has a right to. Cooler than humanity has a right to judging by how we seem to be handling it. Space deserves better than humans. Humans don't deserve space.

Maybe they can look - but touch? Keep your hands to yourself kleptrocrats.

Sorry if this makes no sense, I'm trying but I'm on my few minutes of lunch left...

It's just one more thing to demoralize the hope of a free and liberated humanity. Futurism was an ideal of something more. But I guess we're gonna get our little space mercs one way or another.
posted by symbioid at 1:35 PM on June 7 [25 favorites]


How long until someone funds the first ISS zero-G space-porno?
posted by fings at 1:50 PM on June 7 [8 favorites]


On the bright side, this could result in drunk trust-fund bros getting yeeted out into the vacuum of space, not listening to the concierge when he says, "sir, don't touch the air lock."
posted by klanawa at 2:16 PM on June 7 [20 favorites]


How long until someone funds the first ISS zero-G space-porno?

It is presumed to have already happened, that there may even be private video and if so it's vehemently denied by any theoretically involved parties. It's presumed because of what tends to happen in the middle of the Venn diagram of high energy type A humans, astronauts, pilots, scientists and just plain humans being humans.

I haven't been able to find this link or page in ages and it may have vanished into history, and it's of highly questionable veracity anyway but there was a quote and report going around from what was purported to be an ISS astronaut speaking off the cuff and record confirming that yes astronauts have had sex in space and it's simply not talked about and NASA will consistently deny it and change the subject because NASA, and further detailing that it wasn't anywhere near as much fun as anyone thought it might be - if not unexpectedly awkward and frustrating.

Which, well, there's a multi-use one liner summing up much of the human sexual experience. Hookay.

Anyway, some of the specific details described great difficulty in even being able to maintain bodily contact much less any sort of, ah, energetic human docking maneuvers due to the lack of gravity and leverage, and that sweat is extra annoying because it just clings to you and you have much less naturally convective cooling going on.

Plus Space Adaptation Syndrome is totally a thing. I mean, think about it. You're in free fall. You have motion sickness. Your brain thinks you will surely die at any moment because: oh shit, falling. Still falling. Stiiiilllll falling. If you're only up for a few days and not super comfortable with doing crazy shit like taking a military fighter jet up to about 50,000 feet then pointing the nose at the ground and recovering from flat spin stalls for fun, you're in for a woozy and difficult time.

The first porno filmed in space is probably going to accidentally be a highly specific and messy fetish film.
posted by loquacious at 2:23 PM on June 7 [26 favorites]


What they need is to fund research to game out all the rigging and padding, compartment dimensions needed, lighting, windows etc to make fucking in space a safe, enjoyable, and enlightening experience.
posted by Burhanistan at 2:35 PM on June 7 [2 favorites]


Like, maybe you'd need wall mounted tensioners to counteract each thrust.
posted by Burhanistan at 2:37 PM on June 7 [2 favorites]


When you nut in space, it push you backward
posted by bleep at 2:40 PM on June 7 [13 favorites]


"It came in space!"
posted by symbioid at 2:45 PM on June 7 [7 favorites]


How long until someone funds the first ISS zero-G space-porno?

And how long after that until the first ISIS zero-G space-porno?
posted by The Tensor at 2:58 PM on June 7 [2 favorites]


New/unique location for a MeFite IRL meetup?
posted by Wordshore at 2:59 PM on June 7 [4 favorites]


I’m almost certain there were plans at one point to do a novelty zero-g porno on one of those Vomit Comet-type planes, but I don’t know if that ever got off the ground (so to speak) and I’m definitely not Googling that at work.
posted by dephlogisticated at 3:01 PM on June 7 [2 favorites]


Prognostication about how space exploration is doomed because NASA will allow a larger variety of things to go to the ISS for a fee than they have previously seems over the top to me. Mainly because the Russians have been offering this deal since the ISS was first occupied after doing the same with Mir for some years.

There is plenty going on at NASA that is deserving of concern and even outrage. This ain't that, especially if the stated guidelines on how much time and resources are available for purchase are followed even loosely.
posted by wierdo at 3:04 PM on June 7 [4 favorites]


I thought i missed David Foster Wallace back in the Year of Dairy Products from the American Heartland, but this year, Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment, I miss him even more
posted by Auden at 3:23 PM on June 7 [3 favorites]


What they need is to fund research to game out all the rigging and padding, compartment dimensions needed, lighting, windows etc to make fucking in space a safe, enjoyable, and enlightening experience.

NASA: We developed this system of velcro webbing, memory foam, fireproof ballistic nylon, a bunch of nitinol memory wire springs and an active mass damper with a sheet with a hole cut out in it. It is intended to be used ONLY FOR PROCREATION. IN SPACE. Wait, what did they say? What the hell is a bondage sex swing?

Roscosmos: Eh, gravity works, so here's 120 extra seconds of Delta-V and a thicker heat shield.

ESA: This really isn't funny, you guys.

PRC/CNSA: *adds more Delta-V and heat shield. Also lasers for some reason.*

Japan: We have opened a love hotel on a comet! For robots!

Boeing: We have eliminated the need for sexual intercourse or reproductive organs with a cross platform solution that can be deployed from unmanned aerial vehicles, traditional piloted vehicles as well as package options for space based deployments, either inside or outside of pressure envelopes and habitats. *Unveils aluminum and Plexiglass box containing stacks of Petri dishes and miniaturized robotic arms. Attached to the box is a long hose that ends in an alarming amount of needles.*

Lockheed: *A glowing green orb rises out of a wooden crate. It hums ominously.*

SpaceX: Yeah, we have a variety of access ports in our new pressure suits for a damn good reason, like totally doing it in open space on an EVA in the back seat of a car! *deploys constellation of thousands and thousands reusable flying robotic dildos without really asking anyone*

BlueOrigin: *Bezos points at New Glenn spaceship, smirking and making idiotic hip-thrusting movements*

ULA: *Accidentally launches MX missile with MIRV payload from VAB*
posted by loquacious at 3:38 PM on June 7 [33 favorites]


Jings, I guess I'm all in on this derail train.

I’m almost certain there were plans at one point to do a novelty zero-g porno on one of those Vomit Comet-type planes, but I don’t know if that ever got off the ground (so to speak) and I’m definitely not Googling that at work.

It's called The Uranus Project part 2, and it has a soundtrack by Liam Howlett and 3D del Naja (NSFW). Only one, uh, shot from the Vomit Comet made it into the movie, and you can't really tell it's in freefall.

BlueOrigin: *Bezos points at New Glenn spaceship

Though it's New Shepard that really looks like a knob. I mean, Jeff Who?
posted by rhamphorhynchus at 3:55 PM on June 7 [2 favorites]


The pinnacle of space pornography will be when someone manages to film a rotating 69 enclosed by a human-centipede ring, known in certain academic circles as a Jolly Saturnalia.
posted by dephlogisticated at 5:28 PM on June 7 [4 favorites]




And, while with silent lifting mind I've trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God
For just $11,250 per day
Same as in town
posted by kirkaracha at 5:35 PM on June 7 [14 favorites]


Check the elevators for Vermicious Knids!
posted by doctornemo at 5:55 PM on June 7 [6 favorites]


Built with taxpayer dollars so when you privatize it should 't I get my fair share of the proceeds?
posted by Fupped Duck at 6:01 PM on June 7 [5 favorites]


On the one hand, if this is the only way to get decent space funding and it probably is...sigh, FINE.

On the other hand...I'd say "please keep Elon Musk out of space" but he will literally be the first rich fucking idiot to sign up for this.
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:34 PM on June 7 [2 favorites]


I wonder if people were upset that Stanley Kubrick depicted a space station with regular Pan Am flights, an onboard Howard Johnson's, and communications by AT&T?
posted by Fukiyama at 7:03 PM on June 7 [6 favorites]


Why would anybody be mad about depicting it? I'm not mad about The Expanse depicting a crapsack future built on exploitation of an oppressed working class, either. Doesn't mean I want that future.
posted by tobascodagama at 7:15 PM on June 7 [12 favorites]


NASA says it will lease the last open port on the ISS, where a new module can attach

Gonna need some creative lawyers to write that contract. Cutting and pasting clauses from model contracts isn't going to cut it.

Lessee agrees to be liable for all explosive decompressions resulting from failure or malfunction of lessee-owned equipment.
posted by ctmf at 7:25 PM on June 7 [1 favorite]


Sounds like an opportunity for an innovative new kind of tax shelter.
posted by dephlogisticated at 7:58 PM on June 7 [4 favorites]


.
posted by SaltySalticid at 8:40 PM on June 7


an innovative new kind of tax shelter

DIVIDENDS IN SPAAAAAACE!
posted by CynicalKnight at 8:44 PM on June 7 [3 favorites]


Gonna need some creative lawyers to write that contract. Cutting and pasting clauses from model contracts isn't going to cut it.

Presumably they figured it out for the commercial stuff that's already up there. They've been storing stuff in that inflatable Bigelow module for a while.
posted by rhamphorhynchus at 10:06 PM on June 7


A space elevator made from the oxygen starved corpses that couldn’t quite survive the experience, extending down towards Everest’s queue of same...
posted by drowsy at 12:00 AM on June 8 [2 favorites]


I'm all for it. We need to get up there, as the first step in getting all our eggs out of this fragile basket, and I don't really expect that we'll be able to do it on government money.

I'm looking forward to hearing the first announcement that a corporation is building a space station of its own, having found an amazing material you can only manufacture in microgravity and they want to make lots of it. I want to see lots of humans in lots of orbits, living, working, doing everyday human stuff. I want to see someone building tiny ships that don't need to overcome a gravity well and heading off to see Saturn's rings. We need an orbital economy to do this, and this may be how it starts.

The sooner the better, I say. The planet may not be able to support a space-faring civilisation for too much longer.
posted by Gamecat at 1:52 AM on June 8 [1 favorite]


approved activities have to have a link to NASA's mission, stimulate the development of a LEO economy, or actually require a zero-G environment

Zero-G pornography seems to fit the bill. It could stimulate the economy among other things, can't be done on earth, and is a peaceful activity of potential benefit to all mankind. Plus, it thrusts forward into the frontier of scientific knowledge. It seems certain that the most suitable techniques and positions are yet to be discovered. The naive approach of both participants being entirely free-floating probably wouldn't work too well, but if Pornhub and NASA collaborate on this I am sure they can come to make progress.
posted by sfenders at 4:39 AM on June 8


Space porn eh? Roger that.
posted by freecellwizard at 5:30 AM on June 8 [5 favorites]


Though it's New Shepard that really looks like a knob. I mean, Jeff Who?

You're right, I meant to say New Shepard, but Blue Origin has just been that forgettable so far.

It really does look like a giant knob end, though.
posted by loquacious at 6:44 AM on June 8 [1 favorite]


On the other hand...I'd say "please keep Elon Musk out of space" but he will literally be the first rich fucking idiot to sign up for this.

The difference between Tragedy and Disaster is whether Musk is allowed to return.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:59 AM on June 8 [4 favorites]


There isn't really that much that is so productive for astronauts to actually do in the ISS anymore aside from maintain the ISS. It has always been a glorified hotel in LEO, and it still has some scientific value as such, but that value is much much more limited than it was 20 years ago. What we are really talking about is what maybe should be the last three years of its lifespan, but will hopefully only be the last five years, of its operation and maybe this isn't such a bad use of it?
posted by Blasdelb at 7:12 AM on June 8


1. Earth based corp buys that last docking port
2. Start bolting shit on, the more and the faster the better.
3. Rich guy goes up there to live, non-USian, who can burn their passport and renounce citizenship on the flight up
4. Transfer corp structure / ownership to that stateless dude on the station
4b (optional) Rich pregnant woman, so her child can be the one getting corp ownership, maybe helps the case for following steps
5. Burn thrusters / extend solar sail, get that thing up to high orbit or orbiting the moon or whatever
6. Fuck you Earthies! Mine now! Who you gonna sue? I claim SPACE JURISDICTION
posted by Meatbomb at 7:37 AM on June 8 [5 favorites]


The ISS crew will be tasked with more and more support duties related to the comfort and accommodation of the paying guest. Some of the guests are going to be assholes, and going on a long trip in close quarters with an asshole is uniquely polarizing.

Perhaps there are so many shit-sandwiches to eat on the way to actually flying as an astronaut that the small aggravation of waiting on a humble billionaire or two won't be make it appreciably worse, but I wonder if a space resort ISS is going to attract the same kinds of people that it did before.
posted by the Real Dan at 10:10 AM on June 8


Y'know, sometimes the anti-Capitalist rhetoric here gets to be as on the same level as any flat-Earther convention.

People have been talking about commercializing space for 70 years. That's the first space station proposal was for. That's what talk of asteroid mining, from Heinlein on was about. That's what Gerald K O'Neil proposed as the reason to make his colonies. Profit is what space colonization is. All colonies have been for profit-without it there is no reason to send more than a few scientists on temporary trips.

And I'll put this as flatly as I can: without commercialization, humans in space are DONE. Finished. Its very expensive to out humans in space, what we, and what we learn from them is limited (and mostly what we learn is humans shouldn't be in space). Humans in space isn't worth the expense.

So, without commercialization, we will abandon the ISS, let it fall out of orbit, and not replace it. We will not go to the Moon or Mars. A trickle of unmanned probes will be sent out, slowly declining as the space program shuts down. Because governments aren't willing to spend that money, and there isn't any reason for them to do so.

The real question is whether they actually find something profitable to do in space, because so far, outside of satellites, its been a bust. Talking tourism is a sign that nothing else has come up, and they're scraping the bottom of the barrel.
posted by happyroach at 11:14 AM on June 8 [2 favorites]


We need to get up there, as the first step in getting all our eggs out of this fragile basket

I support space exploration, but thinking that we can have autonomous colonies on other planets in less than 100 years to avoid ecological/political collapse is ridiculous. We need to fix the fragile basket rather than think about space exploration as some sort of escape pod.
posted by benzenedream at 11:55 AM on June 8 [7 favorites]


Winchester Mystery House in space.
posted by ctmf at 11:56 AM on June 8 [2 favorites]


If there's nothing productive for humans to actually do in space, why should we be sad if the ISS is decommissioned instead of becoming the Bank of America Presents International Space Pavilion?
posted by tobascodagama at 1:20 PM on June 8 [2 favorites]


Step 1: Rename the space station Libertaria
Step 2: Allow anyone to go there who can afford it
Step 3: ???
Step 4: Burn up in the atmosphere during reentry
posted by snofoam at 1:28 PM on June 8 [4 favorites]


CAN'T READ PAST THE HEADLINE FUCK THIS PLANET I HATE EVERYTHING
posted by latkes at 2:04 PM on June 8 [2 favorites]


The Aliens franchise should've already emotionally prepared us for the inevitable commercialization of off-Earth entities and spaces.
posted by Burhanistan at 2:37 PM on June 8


We need to fix the fragile basket rather than think about space exploration as some sort of escape pod.

This. It's worth noticing that the other point of view basically is a remake of Independence Day, with Earthlings as the Invaders.
posted by Aardvark Cheeselog at 3:10 PM on June 8 [4 favorites]


And I'll put this as flatly as I can: without commercialization, humans in space are DONE. Finished. Its very expensive to out humans in space, what we, and what we learn from them is limited (and mostly what we learn is humans shouldn't be in space). Humans in space isn't worth the expense.

You just made the argument that manned space activities should be stopped. Yet somehow your have avoided the conclusion.
posted by Aardvark Cheeselog at 3:14 PM on June 8 [2 favorites]


Question here - it's the International Space Station - sure, NASA can lay claim to a large part of it, but the Russians and Europeans surely get a say - I remember an article from a couple of years back when the US were going to cut ties with the Russians on the project, and the Russians came up with a plan to tow their bits away and they'd have a smaller but working spacestation, and the US and Europeans, well, would have some large pieces of space junk - this is mainly down to the Russian's experience with Mir - they built the core of the ISS due to this experience.

So is the US selling the spaces it would otherwise have used for astronauts here? Also, given that there is currently no US man-rated spacecraft, are they expecting the tourists to pay for spaces on a Soyuz? Or is it waiting for the Dragon capsule to get man-rated - I mean, maybe next year, if everything goes right - that'd be great but well, optimistic.
posted by BigCalm at 3:14 PM on June 8 [2 favorites]


This shift will benefit the handicap to Nwabudike Morgan...

/thread
posted by Aardvark Cheeselog at 3:18 PM on June 8


A new life awaits you in the off-world colonies. The chance to begin again in a golden land of opportunity and adventure.
posted by kirkaracha at 3:34 PM on June 8 [7 favorites]


Step 1: Rename the space station Libertaria

This is literally how you get space pirates.
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:53 PM on June 8 [1 favorite]


We need to fix the fragile basket rather than think about space exploration as some sort of escape pod.

Having a backup plan in case a wandering meteorite decides to visit is a good idea.

Yes, the chances of that happening are small, so it shouldn't be in the top 5 priorities, but the top 10 or 20 sounds about right to this layman.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:36 PM on June 8 [1 favorite]


Will there be a Howard Johnson's?
posted by clavdivs at 7:28 PM on June 8 [2 favorites]


S C R A M
posted by benzenedream at 9:39 PM on June 8


"Profit is what space colonization is. All colonies have been for profit-without it there is no reason to send more than a few scientists on temporary trips. "

Iron_Eyes_Cody.gif
posted by klangklangston at 11:03 PM on June 11 [1 favorite]


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