Paying More For Flights? Try $70.6 Million Per Seat

Travelers have become accustomed to paying more for flights as airline fees soar, tapping them for billions. Between baggage fees, service fees and in-flight fees, it is getting harder to find cheap fares and no one knows that better than NASA.

As the space shuttle program came to an end in 2011, NASA began relying on the Russian Space Agency to ferry astronauts and supplies back and forth from the International Space Station (ISS). But even NASA, OK with paying $65 million per seat, did not see the latest price hike coming. Agreeing to pay $424 million for the flights of six astronauts aboard Russian Soyuz spacecraft to service the ISS in 2016 and the first half of 2017, NASA is not happy.

But NASA really has no other choice than to pay the $70.6 million per seat fare as Russia has the market cornered as the only way to get to and from the space station.Yes, several U.S. companies are in the process of taking that business away from Russia, but those efforts are a few years away. SpaceX is making cargo shipments, but not shipping humans yet. Still, according to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, had congress approved NASA’s funding request for commercial space travel, the situation could have been avoided.

“Because the funding for the President’s plan has been significantly reduced, we now won’t be able to support American launches until 2017,” said Bolden in a NASA blog post reported by LaboratoryEquipment.

It’s a tough place to be for NASA. On the other hand, the $100 million they spent to build a home for retired space shuttle Atlantis in Florida could have come in handy right about now. At least we can choose not to check luggage, comparison shop and bring our own meals on board. Astronauts don’t have that option.

[Photo – Flickr user chatarra picks]

Mission To Mars Planned By Private Space Leaders

When we last heard from Dennis Tito, it was when the New York-born American engineer was catching a $20 million ride on the International Space Station. That was in 2001 and he did so against the wishes of NASA, instead hitting up the Russian Federal Space Agency for the lift. Now, 20+ years later, Tito plans a trip to Mars in a venture that should make him the first human ever to walk on the red planet.

On what looks to be a 500-day round trip voyage to Mars, Tito’s newly formed Inspiration Mars Foundation teases “plans to take advantage of a unique window of opportunity to launch a historic journey to Mars and back in 501 days, starting in January 2018,” reports CNET.

Details are few right now but clarity will come next week during a press conference scheduled for February 27, 2013, at The National Press Club in Washington, D.C., moderated by CNN’s Miles O’Brien.

Speculation on how the flight will go includes wondering if an actual landing on Mars will occur or if the private mission will simply (as though this is simple in any way) be a fly-by. At nearly 70 years old by the time the proposed flight happens, time is of the essence for Tito.Also involved in the project is Paragon Space Development Corporation most recently involved with the life-support systems in the Red Bull Stratos Space Jumper, world’s-highest sky dive in 2012. That was nothing new for them either, as original members of the Biosphere 2 sealed dome life-support for the experiment of the early 1990s.

Add it all up and these private space leaders could very well pull it off. We’ll find out more details on the plan next week.

Want to know more about the idea of a mission to Mars? Check this video:

[Photo Credit – Flickr user Amitabh T]

Trade frequent flyer miles for space travel

Banking frequent flyer miles, business travelers save for travel gear, clothing, sports and recreation equipment, personal vacations and more. Now, Virgin Galactic is allowing their frequent flyers to trade miles for a ride in space.

Virgin Galactic plans to send its first spacecraft, SpaceShip Two, on a suborbital space flight later this year. In a lottery, Virgin Galactic is allowing their Atlantic Flying Club members to redeem miles for a chance to win a trip on a the spaceflight.

According to the terms and conditions of the drawing, “Once Virgin Galactic launches it’s first flight to space, Flying Club will draw a winner from all the entries received.” You don’t need to have two million miles to register for the drawing, but you will need to have the miles in your account if your entry is selected as the winner.

The price tag: two million miles.Short on miles?

Virgin Galactic will allow members to buy up to 30,000 miles for $27. At that rate, a ride in space has a value of $54,000, not a bad price compared to the $63 million that the Russian space agency charges NASA for a ride to the international Space Station.

Flickr photo by Deanster1983