After taking a decade-long break from space tourism, Russia’s state space corporation Roscosmos plans to send two paying tourists to the International Space Station in 2023 on a short flight of the country’s Soyuz spacecraft. While they’re up there, one of the tourists will perform a spacewalk with an experienced Russian cosmonaut — a first for any private citizen visiting the ISS.
To fly the tourists, Roscosmos is working with US company Space Adventures, which arranges spaceflights for wealthy customers. The company has worked with Roscosmos before to send seven private citizens to the International Space Station on eight separate Soyuz trips. The last tourist, Cirque du Soleil co-founder Guy Laliberté, flew to the ISS in September 2009.
After that, Roscosmos mostly paused its space tourism efforts in order to help get NASA astronauts to and from the space station. When NASA’s Space Shuttle retired in 2011, the Soyuz became the only means of getting people to the ISS, so priority was given to NASA astronauts and international partners involved in the International Space Station program. NASA paid roughly $80 million a seat to get passengers on the Soyuz.
But now, things are changing. SpaceX recently launched two NASA astronauts to the ISS on the company’s new Crew Dragon capsule, and it plans to conduct regular passenger flights on the vehicle moving forward. Meanwhile, Boeing is also developing a new crew capsule called CST-100 Starliner that will eventually take NASA astronauts to and from the ISS. That means NASA is no longer entirely dependent on Russia’s Soyuz rocket, and the agency has bought fewer and fewer seats on the vehicle as a result.
Now it seems that Roscosmos’ space tourism efforts are picking back up again. Early last year, Roscosmos said it was working with Space Adventures to fly two tourists to the space station in 2021. It’s unclear if today’s announcement is separate from that agreement or if it’s some kind of update. The release from last year didn’t say anything about a tourist spacewalking. Space Adventures did not respond to a request for comment.
Of the handful of tourists who have gone to space, none have spacewalked before. Spacewalking is a pretty laborious process that requires extensive training on the ground. There are no details on how much a trip like this will cost. It’ll be interesting to see just what kind of training this person has to do to prepare — and what they’ll be doing when they are out in space.