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Astronauts on set: House station could host wave of TV exhibits and movies

Written by Kenneth Chang

Who needs to be an astronaut? If the reply is you, there’s a actuality TV present, appropriately titled “Who Wants to Be an Astronaut?”, that you simply ought to use for.

The Discovery Channel is searching for to forged about 10 would-be astronauts to compete in the course of the collection’ eight-episode run subsequent 12 months for a seat on a real-life journey to the Worldwide House Station, adopted by reside protection of the launch of the winner on a SpaceX rocket.

“We’d like a diverse group of people that each have their own story, why they want to go to space, why they’re worthy of going to space, what their back story is,” mentioned Jay Peterson, president of Boat Rocker Studios, Unscripted, one of many firms producing the present for Discovery.

That particular person won’t be the one novice astronaut destined for the house station subsequent 12 months. So many tourism and leisure efforts are making ready journeys there that it may start to look extra like a soundstage for tv exhibits and a lodge for the rich than an orbiting analysis laboratory.

Many who work within the enterprise of house imagine that could be a good factor, even when journeys to orbit will stay out of attain of all however the wealthiest passengers within the close to time period.

“This is a real inflection point, I think, with human spaceflight,” Phil McAlister, NASA’s director of business spaceflight growth, mentioned throughout a information convention this month asserting that the company had signed an settlement with Axiom House, a Houston-based firm, to fly the primary mission of personal astronauts to the house station.

Space, Space Station, Discovery Channel, International Space Station, Who wants to be an astronaut, astronauts show, A photograph supplied by NASA exhibits the astronaut Michael López-Alegría within the Quest Airlock of the Worldwide House Station in 2002. The Discovery Channel is searching for to forged about 10 would-be astronauts to compete in the course of the collection’ eight-episode run subsequent 12 months for a seat on a real-life journey to the Worldwide House Station, adopted by reside protection of the launch of the winner on a SpaceX rocket. (NASA by way of The New York Instances)

“I’m very bullish on the tourism market and the tourism activity,” McAlister mentioned. “I think more people that are going to fly, they’re going to want to do more things in space.”

Though the Worldwide House Station could keep up in orbit at the least till 2028, sooner or later it won’t be solely house station. Russian house authorities final month declared their intention to depart the ISS within the coming years and construct a station of their very own. A Chinese language orbital outpost is anticipated to come back on-line within the subsequent 12 months or two.

Even NASA is in search of what comes subsequent, promising assist for industrial alternate options. Axiom, for one, is constructing a industrial section, which can first be added to the Worldwide House Station and later function a core piece of an Axiom station.

“By the end of the decade I believe we will have at least five, possibly 10 private stations,” mentioned Jeffrey Manber, chief govt of NanoRacks, an organization that arranges industrial use of ISS and can also be planning its personal orbital outposts. “Some for entertainment, some for research, some for in-space manufacturing, some for preparing the way for our journey to Mars. At long last, our more pragmatic aspirations are becoming reality.”

TV and movie tasks in orbit are attracting the best consideration up to now. Within the 12 months forward, the Russian house company, Roscosmos, and a Russian broadcaster, Channel One, are behind a venture within the 12 months forward to ship Yulia Peresild, an actress, and Klim Shipenko, a filmmaker, to the house station to make the film “Challenge.” Peresild will play a surgeon despatched to orbit to save lots of the lifetime of a Russian astronaut.

They are going to be flying on a Russian Soyuz rocket. So will a Japanese style entrepreneur, Yusaku Maezawa, and Yozo Hirano, a manufacturing assistant. Their 12-day journey, scheduled to launch in December, is a prelude for a extra formidable around-the-moon journey Maezawa hopes to embark on in a number of years within the big SpaceX Starship rocket presently in growth. His journey to the house station is being organized by House Adventures, an organization that organized eight comparable visits for personal residents between 2001 and 2009.

There may be nonetheless the opportunity of Tom Cruise going to house, too.

A 12 months in the past, Deadline reported that NASA was in discussions with the film megastar on taking pictures an action-adventure movie on the station. Since then, nothing extra of Cruise’s out-of-this-world film venture has been revealed publicly.

There will even be different journeys to house going locations apart from the house station. Jared Isaacman, a billionaire entrepreneur, has purchased an orbital journey from SpaceX, the rocket firm began by Elon Musk.

A bit nearer to Earth, two firms, Virgin Galactic, based by Richard Branson, and Blue Origin, based by Jeff Bezos, are getting nearer to flying vacationers on quick, suborbital flights that may supply a couple of minutes of weightlessness.

On Saturday, Virgin Galactic carried out a profitable take a look at flight of its SpaceShipTwo rocket airplane. And Blue Origin has introduced that its New Shepard spacecraft can have individuals aboard its subsequent flight, scheduled for July 20, and it’s auctioning one seat. As of Wednesday, the excessive bid was $2.8 million.

Axiom House, the Houston firm, is central to some coming journeys to the house station. Its first flight to the Worldwide House Station, which is to launch aboard a SpaceX rocket as early as January, will carry three passengers, who’re spending $55 million every for his or her eight days or so in orbit. Michael López-Alegría, a former NASA astronaut who’s now a vp at Axiom, will accompany them, serving as commander of the mission.

This month’s announcement was the primary time NASA acknowledged that the Axiom mission was formally on the house station schedule.

“We’re finally able to open our doors to private citizens and allow others to experience the magic of living and working in space,” mentioned Dana Weigel, deputy supervisor for the house station at NASA. “The dream is really to allow everyone access to space, and this is a pretty exciting starting point here.”

Producers of Discovery’s “Who Wants to Be an Astronaut” anticipate the winner to be on board for the second Axiom mission to the house station, which could take off six or seven months after the primary one. For now, an settlement between the Discovery workforce and Axiom has not been finalized, and NASA has but to decide on Axiom to conduct the second non-public house tourism flight.

Space, Space Station, Discovery Channel, International Space Station, Who wants to be an astronaut, astronauts show,Space, Space Station, Discovery Channel, International Space Station, Who wants to be an astronaut, astronauts show, A photograph supplied by NASA exhibits the astronaut Peggy Whitson within the cupola of the Worldwide House Station on Dec. 3, 2016. She is going to chaperone a vacationer to the Worldwide House Station, as will astronaut Michael López-Alegría, who’s now president of Axiom (NASA by way of The New York Instances)

The NASA-led a part of the station may accommodate two non-public astronaut missions a 12 months, house company officers have mentioned, and different firms are additionally all for collaborating.

“We are seeing a lot of interest in private astronaut missions, even outside of Axiom,” Weigel mentioned. “At this point, the demand exceeds what we actually believe the opportunities on station will be.”

Nonetheless, on Tuesday, Axiom introduced two individuals who can be within the seats for that second mission: Peggy Whitson, a former NASA astronaut who now works for Axiom, would be the commander, and John Shoffner, a paying passenger who made his fortune as head of an organization that manufactures conduits for fiber optic cables, will function pilot for the mission.

Whitson, who holds the document for probably the most cumulative time in house by a NASA astronaut — 665 days — joined Axiom as a marketing consultant a 12 months in the past, in hopes of attending to house once more and including to her document. “Yes, most definitely,” she mentioned. “That was the carrot.”

Peterson mentioned plans for the Discovery present grew out of discussions with Axiom early in 2020 and that it will be “a premium documentary” and fewer like “Survivor” or different ruthless actuality tv competitions.

“There’s real stakes here, unlike those kinds of comparisons,” Peterson mentioned. “We want to create an interest in somebody, so that everyone can feel like they maybe someday have the ability to do this.”

Paul Ricci, a founding father of BoomTown Content material Co. and in addition concerned within the present, mentioned the competitors shall be based mostly on what astronauts and others who’ve labored in human spaceflight have mentioned was wanted to succeed.

“If these are the qualities that astronauts need to have,” Ricci mentioned, “then we can model challenges that test those qualities. Things like problem solving, teamwork, precision and focus, grace under pressure, handling the unexpected.”

The thought of staging competitions to get to house is just not new. In 1990, Toyohiro Akiyama, a Japanese tv journalist, went to the Russian house station Mir. The Tokyo Broadcasting Service purchased the seat on the Soyuz and Akiyama was chosen from 163 candidates. A 12 months later, Helen Sharman, an English chemist, additionally flew to Mir, chosen from amongst 13,000 British candidates in a privately financed marketing campaign.

An area-based actuality tv present is just not a brand new thought both. In 2000, NBC signed a deal for a present developed by Mark Burnett, who had additionally produced “The Apprentice” and “Survivor.” The winner of that competitors would have additionally traveled to Mir, however NASA pressed Russia to desert Mir and shift its focus to the Worldwide House Station, which was within the early levels of development.

Russia relented, Mir was nudged to a watery crash within the Pacific in 2001, and the fact tv present by no means got here to fruition.

As for Cruise, it’s a guessing recreation when he and the film director he’s working with, Doug Liman, may head to the house station, and Axiom has by no means commented on whether or not it’s concerned in Cruise’s film.

Requested on Monday if there have been any developments that might be shared, Amanda Lundberg, Cruise’s publicist, replied, “Thanks but this is not possible.”

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