Recent comments to the press from NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver suggest that NASA should bring affluent tourists "along for the ride" on future U.S. flights to the ISS.
With several CCDev designs offering seven passenger seating, rather than just the required two-man U.S. crew rotation, NASA has several productive options, including greater cargo mass to and from the ISS, brief investigations by commercial engineers or academic scientists responsible for ISS experiments, and actual flight experience for more members of NASA’s astronaut corps than just the four U.S. ISS crewmembers per year, who could provide highly-trained backup support in an emergency.
It is curious that exactly 10 years ago, Garver and *NSYNC rock star Lance Bass held a press conference in Moscow to announce to the world that they had just completed the medical tests required to be permitted as paying tourists onboard Soyuz flights to the ISS.
So committed was Garver to becoming one of the first space tourists that she had her gall bladder surgically removed to meet Russian spaceflight requirements. Likewise, Bass underwent required heart surgery because of a cardiac arrhythmia. However, all of this was for naught when their financial backers, a proposed cosmonaut reality game show, bailed out for a multitude of reasons.
Although one has to acknowledge the sacrifices that both made in pursuit of their personal dreams, at the same time one has to wonder how compatible their values are with the demands and realities of space exploration.
It is entirely possible that in the not-too-distant future LEO space tourism could become a small technology-intensive resort market that the U.S. might not want to abandon to foreign competitors.
However, NASA’s primary focus should be instead directed toward detailed investigations of future geological resources on the Moon, Mars and asteroids, rather than promoting what could almost be likened to the further adventures of “Pigs in Space.”