NASA is exploring the feasibility of commercialising the agency’s operations in low Earth orbit to lower its costs while its eyes turn toward the Moon and Mars, the media reported. NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine has unveiled an “Advisory Council committee” that will explore some of these plans, which could include product endorsements from astronauts and even selling the naming rights to rockets and other spacecraft, Engadget reported.
According to Mike Gold, head of the Committee, the committee would also consider scrapping “obsolete” regulations to let US astronauts support private activities aboard the International Space Station (ISS). Companies should not have to “turn to Russian cosmonauts” for private operations, suggesting that astronauts could even be involved in filming ads, he was quoted as saying. Gold said the possibilities could include having NASA receive reimbursement when commercial space companies sell spots on spacecraft heading for the ISS, and leveraging those funds for access or services on future private-sector space stations.
“Our companies should not have to turn to Russian cosmonauts to execute commercial operations,” Gold was quoted as saying by the GeekWire. “When new industrial substance are created, commercial experiments conducted, or even advertisements filmed, American astronauts should lead the way.”
While Bridenstine stressed that he did not know if this kind of commercialisation was possible (hence the committee), he noted that the move might help NASA compete with private spaceflight companies. The US has a shortage of military pilots precisely because they can make more money with airlines, the administrator argued — there could be a similar problem if they’re tempted away by the likes of SpaceX — a California-based private aerospace manufacturer. Bridenstine also noted that this could spread NASA’s influence in pop culture, the report said.