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The International Space Station. Photo: NASA

The International Space Station is open for business and private companies are making expensive plans to capitalize on it.

Why it matters: This commercialization effort by NASA is part of the agency's broader goals to welcome a broad swath of private enterprises to space to boost an economy in low-Earth orbit that will make NASA a buyer among many users instead of a sole provider.

  • NASA expects that shift will allow the agency to focus on farther afield missions like getting people to the Moon and Mars.

The state of play: Last week, Estée Lauder announced NASA will fly bottles of one of the company's beauty products to the space station, where astronauts will take photos and videos of it.

  • "The raw imagery will be provided back to Estée Lauder, and they intend to use them in social media posts," NASA spokesperson Stephanie Schierholz told me via email.
  • The bottles will fly up to the station aboard an upcoming Northrop Grumman cargo launch currently scheduled for the end of the month.
  • An unscripted show is expected to award its winner a 10-day trip to the space station in 2023, according to Deadline.

Yes, but: It isn't cheap for companies to make use of the space station and the astronauts who keep it functioning.

  • Companies will be charged about $17,500 for an hour of NASA astronaut time and $11,250 per day for a private astronaut's life support and use of a toilet.
  • Crew supplies — including air and food — cost $22,500 per private astronaut per day.

Go deeper

How NASA and the Space Force might fare under Biden

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Joe Biden hasn't gone out of his way to talk about outer space during his presidential campaign. That could be bad news for NASA's exploration ambitions, but good news for the Space Force.

The big picture: NASA faces two threats with any new administration: policy whiplash and budget cuts. In a potential Biden administration, the space agency could get to stay the course on the policy front, while competing with other priorities on the spending side.

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
Feb 18, 2020 - Science

Trump's improbable moonshot

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

NASA is unlikely to meet its deadline of sending astronauts to the surface of the Moon by 2024, even with a large influx of funding.

Why it matters: The Artemis mission to send people back to the Moon is the Trump administration's flagship space policy, and its aggressive, politically-motivated timeline is its hallmark.

Updated Jan 1, 2019 - Science

Deep Dive: The new global race to space

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A few years ago, a Silicon Valley billionaire decried that he and his friends dreamed of flying cars, and instead got 140 characters. He was wrong: They, along with entrepreneurs and governments around the world, got much more — a space race on steroids.

The big picture: From Dubai to the U.S., Tokyo to Moscow, Tel Aviv to Beijing and more, billionaires, privateers and political leaders are vying to land on the Moon, colonize Mars, mine asteroids — and just get off the Earth. "Whatever we have evolved into hundreds and thousands of years from now, we'll look at these decades as when the human race moved off the planet," said Peter Diamandis, chairman of the X-Prize Foundation.

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