For the first time, NASA is planning to open the International Space Station to private citizens, allowing commercial companies to arrange tours that could cost as much as $58 million (£46 million) per person.
The first phase of the plan will allow up to two private astronauts to make short-term visits to the station as soon as 2020, before opening the station to other tourism opportunities, officials said at a news conference on Friday.
NASA said the commercial activity is an effort to raise money for sending a new round of astronauts to the moon by 2024.
Yet hours after the announcement, President Donald Trump tweeted that he does not think NASA should focus on returning to the moon and should instead turn its attention toward Mars – despite just last month saying he was beefing up NASA’s budget “and we are going back to the Moon.”
He also incorrectly stated that “the Moon is a part” of Earth’s neighbouring planet – which the internet did not let slide.
“For all the money we are spending, NASA should NOT be talking about going to the moon – we did that 50 years ago,” he tweeted.
“They should be focused on the much bigger things we are doing, including Mars (of which the moon is a part), defense and science!”.
Twitter user Eugene Gu wrote: “Mars has its own moons. They’re called Phobos and Deimos. But the moon that Trump refers to orbits the Earth and has nothing to do with Mars other than being part of our solar system.”
The space tourist visits will be arranged through commercial companies contracted with NASA, which currently include Boeing and Elon Musk’s Space X. The agency is evaluating proposals from additional companies.
The companies will have to pay about $35,000 (£27,000) a night to use the space station’s services, including air, water, food and communication, NASA said. Voyagers would be charged much more, to cover costs of the companies’ rocket flights and other expenses.