NASA reveals 'space habitat' where ISS tourists can view Earth

NASA selects a private ‘space home’ featuring padded walls and ‘the largest window ever constructed for space’ to accommodate the first tourists visiting the ISS

  • NASA partners with private company Axiom Space to attach commercial module to the ISS for space tourism
  • Tourists in low orbit will benefit from high speed Wi-Fi, video screens and LED lights in their comfy space pods
  • An attached glass-walled cupola will provide the largest window observatory ever in constructed in space
  • The Axiom segment will eventually detach and operate as an independent unit when the ISS is finally retired

NASA has selected a private company to build the first ever ‘space home’ for tourists aboard the International Space Station. 

The US space agency has joined forces with Texas-based startup Axiom Space to provide a habitable module to be attached to the ISS for commercial use.

Concept images from the company show that the ‘Axiom Segment’ will include plush crew quarters and a 360-degree Earth observatory window – the largest ever constructed for space. 

Proposed designs for habitation modules show comfy padded interiors where members of the public will be able to enjoy panoramic views of Earth.

NASA had announced plans last year for tourists to visit the ISS from 2020 onwards, as a way to ‘commercialise low-Earth orbit’.

But at an eye-watering $35,000 at the very minimum, a trip to the famous space station won’t come cheap.

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The Axiom Segment will be constructed while attached to the ISS and, at the end of the ISS’ life, detach and operate on its own (pictured). The ISS i set to be decommissioned towards the end of this decade

The ‘Axiom Segment’ is made up of three modules – a node module, a research and manufacturing facility and crew habitat with a large-windowed Earth observatory.

The first parts of these segments will launch to the ISS in late 2024. 

‘The first elements of Axiom will attach to the forward node of the ISS, providing modern accommodations for more astronauts, a first-of-its-kind immersive view of our beautiful Earth, and additional research and manufacturing volume,’ Axiom says on its website.   

An animation shows how the Axiom segment will be attached to the ISS in stages:

The Axiom Segment will be assembled abroad the International Space Station and then detached as a free-flying independent holiday home for space tourists with at least $35,000 to spare 

Axiom hired French designer Philippe Starck – who designed Steve Jobs’ luxury yacht Venus – to map out the pod’s interiors.

Concept images of the habitation module show walls covered with soft padding, LED lights and super-fast Wi-Fi and video screens. 

Axiom has also revealed images of a glass-walled cupola – which the company calls the largest window observatory ever constructed for the space environment.

Axiom Station crew quarters will provide a certain degree of Paris Hilton-esque bling, courtesy of French designer Philippe Starck, who designed Steve Jobs’ luxury yacht the Venus

The cosy nests have touchscreens embedded in the walls, as well as LED lights, mirrors and the all-important handrails for navigating one’s self around in low gravity

Axiom, which was founded in 2016 with the purpose of expanding human civilisation into Earth’s orbit, will launch crewed flights to the Axiom complex at a rate of about two to three flights a year. 

‘Axiom’s work to develop a commercial destination in space is a critical step for NASA to meet its long-term needs for astronaut training, scientific research, and technology demonstrations in low-Earth orbit,’ said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine.

‘We are transforming the way NASA works with industry to benefit the global economy and advance space exploration.’

He added that this was a ‘similar partnership’ to the ones NASA has with private companies SpaceX and Boeing, which this year ‘will return the capability of American astronauts to launch to the space station on American rockets from American soil’.

Concept shows the Axiom segment as attached to the International Space Station. The segment will detach before the ISS is decommissioned near the end of the decade

Axiom’s space modules will initially dock on the ISS but will go on to become independent of the space station, which is due to be retired within the decade. 

When the ISS reaches its decommissioning date, the Axiom Segment will detach and become a free-flying, internationally available commercial space station.

‘Our goal is to advance the state of humanity and human knowledge,’ said Axiom founder and executive chairman Dr Kam Ghaffarian.

‘A commercial platform in Earth orbit is an opportunity to mark a shift in our society similar to that which astronauts undergo when they see the planet from above.’

WHAT IS THE INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION?

The International Space Station (ISS) is a $100 billion (£80 billion) science and engineering laboratory that orbits 250 miles (400 km) above Earth.

It has been permanently staffed by rotating crews of astronauts and cosmonauts since November 2000. 

Research conducted aboard the ISS often requires one or more of the unusual conditions present in low Earth orbit, such as low-gravity or oxygen.

ISS studies have investigated human research, space medicine, life sciences, physical sciences, astronomy and meteorology.

The US space agency, Nasa, spends about $3 billion (£2.4 billion) a year on the space station program, a level of funding that is endorsed by the Trump administration and Congress.

A U.S. House of Representatives committee that oversees Nasa has begun looking at whether to extend the program beyond 2024.

Alternatively the money could be used to speed up planned human space initiatives to the moon and Mars.

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