Agency Will Spend $21.8 Million Per Passenger, Per Trip
As was reported last month in
Aero-News, NASA recently signed an agreement with the
Russian Space Agency to provide transportation of American
astronauts to and from the International Space Station onboard
Russia's Soyuz spacecraft. At the time, the terms of the deal were
not disclosed; "we have our commercial secrets as well," said
Roskosmos Director Anatoly Perminow.
NASA doesn't feel the same, apparently, as the agency revealed
last Thursday the pricetag for the flights, seen as imperative
until NASA gets the space shuttle operating again: $21.8 million
per passenger, per trip leg.
In other words, a roundtrip flight for one astronaut to the ISS
will cost NASA over $43 million -- or nearly twice what so-called
"space tourists" pay for the trip.
The pricetag also includes what NASA spokeswoman Melissa Mathews
called "a small amount" of cargo space aboard Progress supply
ships, as well as training of NASA astronauts on the Soyuz systems,
according to CNN and Reuters.
The first "roundtrip" ticket will actually be one-way trips for
two astronauts: Jeffrey Williams, part of the Expedition
14 crew announced Thursday and who is expected to lift
off in March; and the return flight home for Expedition 13's Bill
McArthur, who was originally expected to return to earth onboard
the shuttle Discovery.
Discovery has been delayed due to ongoing issues surrounding
foam insulation on the shuttle's external fuel tank; while a fix is
believed to have been found, the soonest the shuttle is expected to
launch is now May, according to Reuters.
The agreement, which is good through 2011 (by which time NASA
hopes to have the next-generation Crew Expedition Vehicle, or CEV,
nearly ready to go), will also keep one seat available on Soyuz
flights for space tourists -- although Russia is now taking
something of a loss on those flights, receiving "only" $20 million
for the roundtrip.