NASA wants former astronauts to lead commercial flights to the ISS. They then have to travel to and from the space station as mission commanders. NASA published a policy proposal for this on Thursday.
Under the policy proposal, which is not yet final, NASA reports that it is finalizing “a new requirement that a former US NASA astronaut serve as mission commander on upcoming private astronaut missions.” Such a former astronaut can provide “experienced guidance” to private astronauts during flight preparation and mission execution, according to the space agency.
This requirement is intended to increase passenger safety and also reduce risks to the operation of the International Space Station. The new policy proposal would also give space tourists longer to prepare for a flight to the ISS. In addition, new medical requirements would apply to private astronauts.
NASA is making the policy proposals based on “lessons” the organization has learned after completing its first private flight to the ISS. That commercial flight took place in April. Space tourists from Axiom Space each paid $55 million to fly to the ISS and work on their own space exploration. That mission was already led by a former NASA astronaut, Michael López-Alegría. Axiom previously considered conducting future missions without a professional astronaut on board, also writes Engadget. NASA’s new policy would presumably prohibit that. Later this year, Axiom Space will hold another commercial Ax-2 mission to the ISS. Former NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson leads that flight.