An oil tanker is seen after it was attacked at the Gulf of Oman, in waters between Gulf Arab states and Iran, June 13, 2019. ISNA/Handout via REUTERS
June 15, 2019
By Parisa Hafezi and Makini Brice
DUBAI/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States on Friday blamed Iran for attacks on two oil tankers at the entrance to the Gulf and said it was seeking international consensus about the threat to shipping, despite Tehran denying involvement in the explosions at sea.
Thursday’s attacks raised fears of a confrontation in the vital oil shipping route at a time of increased tension between Iran and the United States over U.S. sanctions and military moves in the Middle East, Tehran’s proxy groups in the region and its nuclear program.
“Iran did do it and you know they did it because you saw the boat,” U.S. President Donald Trump told Fox News.
He was referring to a video released on Thursday by the U.S. military which said it showed Iran’s Revolutionary Guards were behind the blasts that struck the Norwegian-owned Front Altair and the Japanese-owned Kokuka Courageous in the Gulf of Oman, at the mouth of the Gulf.
Iran said the video proved nothing and that it was being made into a scapegoat. “These accusations are alarming,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said.
Iran has dismissed earlier U.S. charges that it was behind the attacks and has accused the United States and its regional allies such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates of “warmongering” by making accusations against it.
Last month, the United States sharply tightened economic sanctions that are damaging the economy of Iran, which in response has threatened to step up its nuclear activity. Tehran has said it could block the Strait of Hormuz, the main route out for Middle Eastern oil, if its own exports were halted.
Trump, who last year pulled the United States out of an agreement between world powers and Tehran to curb Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for some sanctions relief, said any move to close the Strait of Hormuz would not last long but added that he was open to negotiations with Iran.
Iran has repeatedly said it will not re-enter talks with the United States unless it reverses Trump’s decision to withdraw from the 2015 nuclear deal.
Tehran and Washington have both said they have no interest in starting a war. But this has done little to assuage concerns that the two arch foes could stumble into a conflict.
A U.S. official told Reuters on Friday a surface-to-air missile was fired from Iranian territory on Thursday morning at a U.S. drone that was near Front Altair following the attack on the tanker. The missile did not hit the drone, the official said.
Trump’s administration is focused on building international consensus following the attacks, U.S. Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said.
Asked whether he was considering sending more troops or military capabilities to the Middle East, Shanahan said: “As you know we’re always planning various contingencies.”
But he emphasized the issue of building consensus.
“When you look at the situation, a Norwegian ship, a Japanese ship, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the UAE, 15 percent of the world’s oil flows through the Strait of Hormuz,” he said.
“So we obviously need to make contingency plans should the situation deteriorate. We also need to broaden our support for this international situation,” he told reporters.
GRAPHIC: Attacks in Gulf of Oman – https://tmsnrt.rs/2X8ePpU
Oil prices rose about 1% on Friday, reflecting the jitters. Insurance costs for ships sailing through the Middle East have jumped by at least 10% after the attacks, ship insurers said.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for an independent investigation https://www.reuters.com/article/mideast-attacks-un/update-2-u-n-chief-calls-for-independent-probe-into-gulf-tanker-attacks-idUSL2N23L0WG of the attacks.
The tanker attacks took place while Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan – a big buyer of Iranian oil until it was forced by the new U.S. sanctions to stop – was visiting Tehran on a peacemaking mission, bringing a message from Trump.
Iran dismissed Trump’s message, details of which were not made public.
“I do not see Trump as worthy of any message exchange, and I do not have any reply for him, now or in future,” Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said.
Washington has also blamed Iran or its proxies for attacks on May 12 that crippled four oil tankers in the same area, and has said Tehran was behind May 14 drone strikes on two Saudi oil-pumping stations. Tehran has denied all those charges.
The U.S. military said black-and-white footage it filmed from a U.S. aircraft showed Iran’s Guards on a patrol boat drawing up to the Kokuka Courageous and removing an unexploded limpet mine from its hull.
The Japanese-owned tanker, abandoned by its crew, was being towed to a port in the United Arab Emirates on Friday, after a Dutch firm said it had been appointed to salvage the ships.
The second tanker, the Front Altair, which was set ablaze by a blast, was still languishing at sea, although the fire that had charred the hull had been put out.
Iranian military fast-boats in the Gulf of Oman were preventing two privately owned tug boats from towing away the Front Altair, a U.S. official said on Friday.
China, the European Union and others have called for restraint from all sides. In a notable signal that close U.S. allies are wary of Washington’s position, Germany said the U.S. video was not enough to apportion blame for Thursday’s attack.
But British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt differed, saying no other state https://www.reuters.com/article/mideast-attacks-britain/britain-blames-iran-for-attacks-on-tankers-in-gulf-of-oman-idUSL8N23L5EQ or non-state actor could have been responsible.
Last month Washington scrapped waivers that had allowed some countries to continue importing Iranian oil, effectively ordering all countries to blacklist Iran or face sanctions themselves.
Iran’s crude exports fell to about 400,000 barrels per day (bpd) in May, starving Iran’s economy of its main source of revenue.
Iran says it is still abiding by the terms of the nuclear deal, but cannot do so indefinitely unless it receives some of the economic benefits that were promised.
There have been conflicting accounts of the cause of Thursday’s blasts. An initial report that Kokuka Courageous was struck by a torpedo was dismissed by a source familiar with the issue. The owner of the tanker, which carried methanol, later said it was hit by two “flying objects”.
Iranian TV showed 23 crew in Iran believed to be from Front Altair on Friday, and said its experts would assess whether they could return to the ship. The crew from Kokuka Courageous were picked up and handed to a U.S. Navy ship on Thursday.
Position of tankers attacked in Gulf of Oman – https://tmsnrt.rs/2XR9D76
(Reporting by Parisa Hafez, Maher Chmaytelli and Ghaida Ghantous in Dubai, Makini Brice, Susan Heavey, Phil Stewart and Lesley Wroughton in Washington; Bart Meijer in Amsterdam; Victoria Klesty in Oslo and Jonathan Saul in London; Writing by Peter Graff and Alistair Bell; Editing by James Dalgleish and Grant McCool)
The German share price index DAX graph is pictured at the stock exchange in Frankfurt, Germany, June7, 2019. REUTERS/Staff
June 12, 2019
(Reuters) – European shares pulled back from three-week highs on Wednesday after the United States toughened its stance on trade with China and data from Beijing showed factory inflation slowed in May, deepening fears of a global economic slowdown.
President Donald Trump said on Tuesday he was holding up a trade deal with China and had no interest in moving ahead unless Beijing agrees to four or five “major points” which he did not specify.
The pan-regional STOXX 600 index fell 0.45% by 0713 GMT, with the tariff-sensitive technology sector down 0.76%.
Also weighing down the sector was a 1.2% fall in shares of Dassault Systemes after the French technology company agreed to buy Medidata Solutions, a U.S. software company involved in the sphere of clinical trials, in a deal worth $5.8 billion.
Trump also took aim at the Federal Reserve, saying interest rates were “way too high”, ahead of a reading on U.S. inflation that could shift the odds for an early cut in rates.
Italy’s FTSE MIB fell 0.38% and its banking index dropped 0.63% after the European Union moved closer to taking disciplinary action over the country’s growing debt.
However, authorities in Rome made tentative steps to avert a procedure that could saddle the country with large fines and alienate investors.
Axel Springer jumped 12.4% after funds controlled by U.S. private equity investor KKR offered 63 euros a share to buy out minority shareholders of the German publisher.
(Reporting by Amy Caren Daniel and Susan Mathew in Bengaluru)
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte casts his vote for the European Parliament elections at a polling station in Rome, Italy May 26, 2019 REUTERS/Remo Casilli
June 11, 2019
ROME (Reuters) – Italy’s coalition leaders have agreed to work together to avert European Union disciplinary action over Rome’s worsening public finances after a late-night meeting with Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte on Monday, the PM’s office said.
In a statement published overnight, Conte said he and his two deputies – League leader Matteo Salvini and 5-Star Movement head Luigi Di Maio – would meet with Economy Minister Giovanni Tria and his staff to draw up a strategy to avoid an infringement procedure for the country.
He also said they would set up a shared budget package.
Officials from the 28 EU states will meet on June 11-12 and are expected to say an EU disciplinary procedure against Italy over its 2.3 trillion euro ($2.6 trillion) debt is warranted.
“All’s well, it was a good meeting. Our shared goal is to avoid the infringement while safeguarding economic growth, employment, as well as tax cuts,” Salvini said in a statement after the coalition meeting.
“There won’t be any budget correction nor tax increases.”
Rome’s debt has been rising steadily from a pre-crisis low of 104% of domestic output in 2007 and now stands at 1.3 times economic output, second only to Greece’s within the euro zone.
Market concerns have been heightened by the spending plans of the eurosceptic government which took office a year ago.
Emboldened by the League’s strong showing in last month’s European election and local polls across Italy, Salvini has made tax cuts a priority for the government.
Rome is also scrambling to avoid a sales-tax increase worth 23 billion euros from kicking in next year.
On Monday Salvini expressed confidence that Rome would be able to reach an accord with the EU.
PM Conte has threatened to resign if the two coalition leaders fail to reach a compromise to settle the budget tussle with Brussels, removing the threat of financial penalties and ending weeks of bickering.
Tria is due to speak to parliament later on Tuesday about a letter in which the European Commission requests an explanation on the deterioration of the country’s public finances.
(Reporting by Giselda Vagnoni; editing by Valentina Za and Kirsten Donovan)
FILE PHOTO: Pumpjacks are seen against the setting sun at the Daqing oil field in Heilongjiang province, China December 7, 2018. REUTERS/Stringer
June 11, 2019
By Henning Gloystein
SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Oil prices rose on Tuesday in line with firmer financial markets and bolstered by expectations that producer group OPEC and its allies will keep withholding supply.
Front-month Brent crude futures were at $62.56 at 0707 GMT, up 27 cents, or 0.4%, from Monday’s close.
U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were at $53.75 per barrel, 49 cents, or 0.9%, above their last settlement.
Prices fell by around 1% in the previous session and crude futures are down by some 20% from their 2019 peaks in late April, dragged lower by a widespread economic downturn that has started to impact oil consumption.
Traders said crude oil futures on Tuesday were pushed up by a broader lift in financial markets after Beijing eased financing rules to stem an economic downturn.
On the production side, Russia said on Monday it might support an extension of supply cuts that have been in place since January, warning oil prices could fall as low as $30 per barrel if producers supply too much crude.
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and some non-affiliated producers including Russia, known collectively as OPEC+, have withheld supplies since the start of the year to prop up prices.
OPEC+ is due to meet in late June or early July to decide output policy for the rest of the year.
“It seems likely that OPEC will roll over the current supply cuts at the next meeting,” said Callum MacPherson, head of commodities at investment bank Investec.
Despite this, MacPherson said “there is a limit to how much longer it (OPEC+) can continue to avoid addressing the serious challenge of being squeezed out by growing U.S. production”.
U.S. crude output has risen by 1.6 million barrels per day (bpd) over the past year, to a record of 12.4 million bpd, making the United States the world’s biggest oil producer ahead of Russia and Saudi Arabia.
On the demand side, analysts expect fuel consumption growth to stutter along with the global economy.
Energy consultancy FGE said global crude oil demand growth could drop below 1 million barrels per day (bpd) in 2019, down from previous expectations of 1.3 to 1.4 million bpd.
“This effectively gives us an extra 300,000-400,000 barrels per day of supply,” said FGE chairman Fereidun Fesharaki.
This revision comes on the back of concerns about the health of the global economy.
“With China slowing, the EU sickly and the U.S. data starting to wobble, an economic downturn remains a clear and present danger,” said Stephen Innes, managing partner at Vanguard Markets.
(Reporting by Henning Gloystein; editing by Richard Pullin)
Alec Baldwin called White House press secretary Sarah Sanders a “mouthpiece for fascism” on Twitter after taking some Twitter heat from her father, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.
Baldwin referenced Sanders on Monday while replying to Huckabee, who celebrated Baldwin’s announcement that he would no longer play President Trump on “Saturday Night Live.”
“Alec Baldwin announced that he’s ‘so done’ playing @realDonaldTrump on ‘Saturday Night Live.’ Good news for viewers who are ‘so done’ with ‘SNL’ & unfunny vicious Trump bashing instead of comedy. For refreshing variety, try my show instead tonight!” Huckabee tweeted Saturday.
“Who knows what the future holds? I tell what it should hold. That you, who have sucked a govt paycheck out of the economy while you were a dreadful Lt gov and then gov and that daughter of yours, a mouthpiece for fascism, that you go away. Just … go away,” Baldwin responded.
Who knows what the future holds?
I tell what it should hold. That you, who have sucked a govt paycheck out of the economy while you were a dreadful Lt gov and then gov and that daughter of yours, a mouthpiece for fascism, that you go away.
Just…go away. https://t.co/ipnR7jeRkW
— HABFoundation (@ABFalecbaldwin) June 10, 2019
Baldwin took a parting shot at Huckabee in a follow-up tweet, saying, “And your show is dreadful. You have no charm, insight or intellect.”
Huckabee had not responded to either of Baldwin’s tweets as of this writing.
President Trump said Monday that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce was critical of his tariffs and immigration policies because it doesn’t represent the interests of the country.
“We lose a fortune with virtually every country. They take advantage of us in every way possible and the U.S. Chamber is right there with them,” Trump told CNBC. “I assume — I am a member with the U.S. Chamber. Maybe I’ll have to rethink that. Because, when you look at it, the chamber is probably more for the companies and the people that are members than the country.”
The Chamber of Commerce favors free trade policies and has been a regular critic of Trump’s tariffs. Late last month, it threatened to take Trump to court over whether he could impose new tariffs against Mexico to force it to curb immigration.
The White House and Mexico reached a deal to avoid the tariffs late Friday. The chamber welcomed the deal, but on Monday Myron Brilliant, the trade association’s executive vice president and head of international affairs, told CNBC that the “weaponization of tariffs” was a bad idea.
“The increase of threats on our economy, on our farmers, our manufacturers, our consumers, is going to hurt our country. It also creates uncertainty with our trading partners,” he said.
According to CNBC, Trump called in to the show unexpectedly in response to his comments. “I guess he is not so brilliant,” Trump said.
FILE PHOTO: Former British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who is running to succeed Theresa May as Prime Minister, leaves his home in London, Britain, May 30, 2019. REUTERS/Hannah McKay/File Photo
June 9, 2019
By William James and David Milliken
LONDON (Reuters) – Boris Johnson, the leading candidate to succeed Theresa May as Britain’s prime minister, said on Sunday he would withhold an already agreed 39-billion-pound ($49.6 billion) Brexit payment until the European Union gives Britain better withdrawal terms.
Johnson is one of 11 lawmakers vying to run the world’s fifth largest economy after May resigned as leader of the governing Conservatives on Friday, having failed to unite parliament or the country behind her Brexit plan.
Britain is mired in its deepest political crisis in decades over how, when and whether it should leave the EU – a decision that will fall to May’s successor and affect both its future role on the world stage and prosperity for generations to come.
As the contest to replace May gathered pace on Sunday, Johnson made his first major intervention, targeting the large pro-Brexit wing of his Conservative Party with a promise to take a hard line with Brussels over the terms of Britain’s exit.
“I think our friends and partners need to understand that the money is going to be retained until such time as we have greater clarity about the way forward,” Johnson told the Sunday Times. “In getting a good deal, money is a great solvent and a great lubricant.”
Main rivals foreign minister Jeremy Hunt, agriculture minister Michael Gove and interior minister Sajid Javid, also want to renegotiate or modify the deal, but none have threatened not to pay the exit bill May agreed with the EU in 2018.
The 39 billion pounds represent outstanding British liabilities to the EU to be paid over a number of years.
The EU has repeatedly said it will not reopen discussion of the Brexit transition deal it reached with May last year, which British lawmakers have rejected three times, or to negotiate a future trade deal with Britain without the divorce payment.
Those three defeats forced May to announce her resignation.
“We will have a different attitude in the negotiating team and a different negotiating team,” Johnson said, adding that he would give personal orders to negotiators from his ministerial team rather than politically impartial public servants.
Johnson also said border arrangements with Ireland should be settled only as part of a long-term agreement, rejecting a negotiated “backstop” that would preserve the open border with Northern Ireland, a British province, but which Conservative lawmakers fear is a backdoor way of requiring Britain to continue to follow EU rules after Brexit.
Shortly after the Johnson interview was published he won the backing of pro-Brexit lawmaker Steve Baker, an influential figure in the party’s hardline eurosceptic wing.
Johnson, popular with Conservative grassroots members who will be given a choice between the final two candidates, first has to win enough support amongst elected Conservative lawmakers – where the depth of his support is less well known – to make it onto that shortlist.
Conservative members of parliament will begin whittling the list down this week with a series of votes in parliament.
Ahead of that, the leading candidates were out in force on Sunday setting out their thoughts on everything from Brexit and tax to drug-taking.
Gove, seen as one of the strongest challengers to Johnson, apologized for using cocaine 20 years ago. “It was a mistake, and it was a mistake that I deeply regret,” he told the BBC.
He set out plans to rip up rules on Value Added Tax – one of the country’s most lucrative sales taxes – and replace it with a simpler system. He also confirmed he would be willing to delay Brexit by a few days or weeks if a deal with the EU was close.
Britain’s original departure date was March 29 but that was shelved after May’s withdrawal bill was repeatedly rejected in parliament. The current deadline is Oct. 31.
Hunt did not commit to when Britain would leave the EU, but said it had to be with a deal, or else the country would face a general election in which the Conservatives could lose out to leftist Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn.
Javid, another candidate seen as having the potential to beat Johnson, set out his intent to reopen negotiations in Brussels by offering to pay hundreds of millions of pounds to cover the implementation of a new border system to smooth trade between Britain and Ireland.
(Reporting by William James; Editing by Mark Heinrich)
Tijuana (Mexico) (AFP) – Presidents Donald Trump and Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador each declared the deal averting US tariffs on Mexico a win Saturday, as markets breathed a sigh of relief — though rights groups condemned what they called a draconian crack down on migration.
Lopez Obrador said the bottom line on the last-minute deal reached Friday night was simple: “there will not be an economic or financial crisis in Mexico on Monday.”
Economists had warned the pain of Trump’s threatened tariffs — set to start at five percent Monday and rise incrementally to 25 percent by October — and Mexico’s likely retaliatory measures would have been acute for both countries, with potentially global spillover.
Instead, the countries hammered out a deal in which Mexico agreed to bolster security on its southern border and expand its policy of taking back migrants, most of them from violence-riven Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, as the United States processes their asylum claims.
Trump hailed it as a victory, after a week of terrifying his southern neighbor, whose economy depends heavily on exports to the US.
“Mexico will try very hard, and if they do that, this will be a very successful agreement for both the United States and Mexico!” he tweeted early Saturday.
Later, he added: “Everyone very excited about the new deal with Mexico!”
The relief was palpable in the Mexican border city of Tijuana, where Lopez Obrador led a rally attended by several thousand people to celebrate the deal and “the friendship of the people of Mexico and the United States.”
However, the leftist leader — who said he had just spoken to Trump on the phone — also warned his American counterpart that it was not enough for Mexico to tighten its borders, saying Washington also needed to invest in economic development in Central America to stem the exodus from the region.
“The solution cannot be found in just closing borders or coercive measures. The only solution is to fight the lack of opportunity and poverty so that migration is optional,” he said, speaking on a stage set up, with seeming symbolism, next to a McDonald’s five blocks from the border.
– Border crack down –
For many, the episode was vintage Trump behavior: trigger a crisis and let it simmer for a while, then declare it resolved and take credit.
The New York Times reported Saturday that most of the measures that Mexico signed on to in Friday’s deal had already been agreed upon in prior negotiations.
Some advocacy groups in Mexico criticized the deal, saying the plan to deploy the newly created National Guard to the southern border would militarize a humanitarian problem and result in mass detentions of innocent women and children.
The deal criminalizes migration, said activist Luis Rey Villagran of the Center for Human Dignity.
“In this agreement, the migrants are currency,” he said. “The National Guard should be combatting drug traffickers, not focusing on stopping children and women who are trying to fulfill their dreams.”
Some opponents accused Lopez Obrador of playing into Trump’s hands.
“It will make Donald Trump so happy to say he didn’t have to build his border wall because Mexico is now the wall,” tweeted Mexican writer Esteban Illades.
But Mexico managed to dodge one of Trump’s main demands: to accept a “safe third country” agreement in which refugees arriving in Mexico would be forced to seek asylum there rather than the US.
There was also acute awareness the tariffs would have clobbered the Mexican economy, which exports $350 billion in goods each year to the US.
Economists warned the tariffs would also hurt US companies that have set up complex supply chains across the borders with Mexico and Canada under the North American Free Trade Agreement, and lead to higher prices on everything from tequila to refrigerators for US consumers.
The tariffs also drew unusually strong opposition from Trump’s fellow Republicans, especially lawmakers from farm states who worried about losing their second-largest international market.
– ‘Unprecedented steps’ –
Mexico pledged to take “unprecedented steps” to curb the record flow of migrant families arriving at the US border.
The number of migrants detained or blocked at the border surged to 144,000 in May — triple the level a year earlier — including an unprecedented 89,000 in families.
The United States, making official a policy that has triggered opposition in both countries, said it would systematically send back asylum seekers who cross the border, pending a decision on their claims. Lopez Obrador said Mexico would offer them jobs, health care and education.
Thousands have already been sent back, prompting criticism from human rights campaigners that the migrants will lack due process and face danger in Mexican border cities such as Ciudad Juarez.
Trump, who has declared a crisis at the border and earlier deployed troops, says that asylum seekers can too easily slip into the population while on US soil.
Democrats denounced the president for taking the United States and Mexico to the brink.
“Threats and temper tantrums are no way to negotiate foreign policy,” top Democratic lawmaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement.
FILE PHOTO: Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov attends a session of the Moscow Financial Forum in Moscow, Russia September 6, 2018. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin
June 8, 2019
ST PETERSBURG (Reuters) – Russia is considering issuing a sovereign Eurobond as market conditions are currently favorable, Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said at an economic forum.
“We would have borrowed now probably on better terms that at the beginning of the year,” Siluanov told reporters on the sidelines of the forum late on Friday.
Siluanov declined to say if that could happen this month or later.
VTB Capital, the investment bank that organized Russia’s latest Eurobond issues, also told Reuters this week that market conditions were favorable for a Eurobond issue.
Speaking about oil, Siluanov said it would not be fair for the Russian government to compensate oil companies for shortfalls that they might face because of the global deal to cut production that Russia and other major crude producers have signed.
The head of Russian oil giant Rosneft, Igor Sechin, said earlier this week the company was discussing possible compensation with the government in the event that a global deal to cut supply is extended.
(Reporting by Darya Korsunskaya; Writing by Andrey Ostroukh; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)
NASA plans to allow tourists to visit the International Space Station from 2020 – at an estimated cost of more than $50million (£39million) per trip.
Until now, the floating space lab has only been accessible to astronauts representing state-level space agencies.
In a surprise announcement today, Nasa confirmed that it would be “opening the International Space Station for commercial business”.
It means that private companies will be able to take “private astronauts” to the ISS for up to 30 days.
“The agency can accommodate up to two short-duration private astronaut missions per year to the International Space Station,” Nasa explained.
“These missions will be privately funded, dedicated commercial spaceflights.”
Private visitors were banned from the space station – which has cost US taxpayers £785million since it was launched in the 1990s – but Nasa needs cash to help fund its dream of putting a man and woman on the Moon by 2024.
Transport will be provided by both Boeing and Elon Musk’s SpaceX, who are currently developing capsules that can carry humans to the ISS.
It’s expected that a trip will likely cost around $50million (£39million) per astronaut, according to early estimates – but could easily rise well above that figure.
The spaceflight to the ISS will account for a large chunk of the cost. But chief financial officer Jeff DeWit joked: “It won’t come with any Hilton or Marriott points.”
Nasa typically pays around $75million for seats aboard a Soyuz spacecraft destined for the ISS, and even paid $82million per seat in 2015.
However, Nasa says seats aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon and/or Boeing CST-100 capsules will cost roughly $58million per seat.
It’s these capsules that will be used to ferry astronauts up to the ISS – but the cost continues to rise after the journey.
Keeping astronauts on board the ISS is a pricey business.
For instance, the regenerative life support and toilet costs $11,250 (£8,800) per astronaut each day.
And general supplies – like food and air – cost $22,500 (£17,500) per astronaut each day.
Nasa will get around $35,000 (£27,000) per night that a private astronaut spends on board the ISS.
A large bank balance won’t be enough either: you’ll have to pass Nasa’s rigorous health checks and training procedures.
What is the ISS?
Here’s what you need to know about the International Space Station…
- The International Space Station, often abbreviated to ISS, is a large space craft that orbits Earth and houses astronauts who go up there to complete scientific missions
- Many countries worked together to build it and they work together to use it
- It is made up of many pieces, which astronauts had to send up individually on rockets and put together from 1998 to 2000
- Ever since the year 2000, people have lived on the ISS
- Nasa uses the ISS to learn about living and working in space
- It is approximately 250 miles above Earth and orbits around the planet just like a satellite
- Living inside the ISS is said to be like living inside a big house with five bedrooms, two bathrooms, a gym, lots of science labs and a big bay window for viewing Earth
As part of its “commercialisation” of the ISS, Nasa will be making one space station port and utilities available for a private company to “attach a commercial module to”.
And it hopes that in the long-term, there will be lots of private space stations floating just above Earth.
“In the long-term, NASA’s goal is to become one of many customers purchasing services from independent, commercial and free-flying habitable destinations in low-Earth orbit,” Nasa explained.
“A robust low-Earth orbit economy will need multiple commercial destinations, and NASA is partnering with industry to pursue dual paths to that objective that either go through the space station or directly to a free-flying destination.”
Whatever ends up going into space, it’s unlikely to get cheaper any time soon.
Even SpaceX charges $62million (£48.7million) to send commercial satellites into orbit with its relatively new Falcon 9 rocket.
And Axiom Space, a Houston-based company hoping to organise trips to the ISS, has pledged to charge $55million (£43.2million) for a 10-day trip to the ISS.
Bill Gerstenmaier, Nasa’s head of human exploration, told a news conference: “We have no idea what kinds of creativity and literally out-of-the-world ideas can come from private industry.”
But super-rich tourists and filmmakers are also being invited to make use of the experience.
And in a message recorded on the ISS, astronaut Christina Koch said it would make space “more accessible to all Americans”.
Jeff Manbar, the CEO of ISS logistics company Nanoracks, said: “It’s a very important step forward. This is the beginning of a new chapter.”
So why is Nasa letting tourists travel to the ISS?
The main advantage seems to be keeping costs down, as the ISS is very expensive to run.
But it’s also about continuing to test space travel – to make it safer and cheaper for everyone.
“Market studies identified private astronaut missions to low-Earth orbit as a key element to demonstrate demand and reduce risk for future commercial destinations in low-Earth orbit,” Nasa explained.
The long-term plan is to create space stations near Earth that can be used as stop-off points for deeper trips into space.
Nasa hopes to set up several “lunar gateways” starting from 2028 that will float near the Moon, and could be used for crewed missions to Mars.
“The first Gateway is about the moon, but I think the second Gateway, being a deep-space transport, again using commercial and international partners, enables us to get to Mars,” said Nasa top boss Jim Bridenstine, speaking last year.
“What we don’t want to do is go to the surface of the moon, prove that we can do it again, and then be done. We want to go to stay.
“And the Gateway, in my view – I’ve been convinced – enables us to take advantage of commercial and international partners in a more robust way so we are there to stay, it enables us to get to more parts of the moon than ever before, and it enables us to get to Mars.”
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Also last year, ISS astronauts enjoyed a festive treat – after Elon Musk shipped Christmas dinner to them.
Would you like to visit the ISS? Let us know in the comments!