There are no former astronauts. NASA may soon require retired astronauts to pilot private missions to the ISS. They will be able to provide “expert guidance for private astronauts during preflight training and mission execution,” says the agency’s message. NASA believes that this will help reduce the load on the ISS crew and increase the safety of passengers.
The changes were made after an analysis of the Axiom Space flight – the first private mission for which passengers paid $55 million each. Then, the intense two-week mission affected both the private astronauts and the ISS crew. Although it was piloted by an experienced astronaut, Axiom’s president considered flying without him to make room for an additional paying passenger. Apparently, NASA wants to prevent this.
At the same time, the agency may experience a shortage of retired astronauts willing to lead private missions. Currently, there are about 200 of them and it is not known how many of them will agree to participate in missions and will meet the medical requirements.
A number of changes for private missions will also affect passengers. New medical standards will be introduced for them, more time will be given for adaptation to microgravity and research projects. The cargo return policy will also change.
As a reminder, Axiom became the first private mission to the ISS. It included four astronauts, including an experienced NASA employee. For the second private tourist mission, the agency also chose Axiom Space.