“It’s the new space economy”acknowledges the specialist in space news at the Cité de l’espace in Toulouse, Olivier Sanguy, on Friday, April 8 on franceinfo, as the first-ever fully private flight to the International Space Station (ISS) departs today at 5:00 PM Paris time.
franceinfo: Is it serious to spend so many resources to send wealthy tourists into space?
Olivier Sanguy: In any case, it’s serious for the private American company selling the service, which incidentally is a Houston-based company called Axiom Space, and uses SpaceX for transportation. This is the new space economy. There are three entrepreneurs who also pose as philanthropists because they leave with 25 science experiments, so they add a side “we’re doing this for humanity too.” In space, there are classic experiments to do, such as medical experiments, so they continue what has already been done. You should also know that they have been training for a year. It’s not quite tourism in the sense that we understand it. It’s more like climbing Everest, for example. You really need to train.
These non-professional space travelers go to the International Space Station (ISS). Is this a first for non-astronauts?
This is the great novelty on the American side, but space tourism in space has been a reality since 2001, it was the Russians who inaugurated it with the American Dennis Tito, who had paid to go on a Soyuz, stay in the ISS for a week and come back. After that there were more, about nine in all, who made that journey via the Russians. This is the first tourism mission – we will use this term to simplify it – on the American side, but you should know that the company Axiom Space has great ambitions since it signed with NASA to add a private module to the international from 2024 space of the station -2025. This module is not made in the USA. It is manufactured in Europe, more precisely in Italy, in Turin, in the Franco-Italian company Thales Alenia Space.
NASA plans to maintain the ISS only until 2030 and then pass the baton to private actors. So the future of space is tourism?
Anyway, this is taking shape. After 2030, NASA plans to no longer maintain a station itself, but to be a customer of several private stations. And Axiom Space plans, after placing a first module, to add others until this embryo station becomes independent. And NASA, maybe the European Space Agency and other agencies will then be clients of these private stations. You should know that the Blue Origin group, ie Jeff Bezos, the creator of Amazon, also has a project. Will it really take root? We’ll see, because already in the 1980s there were projects for the commercialization of space, but that stopped.