NASA chief in talks with companies about running ISS

LIVE: 3 astronauts make two-day launch to International Space Station

Aunon-Chancellor, 42, who followed her father into engineering before training to be an astronaut and is also a practising doctor, was only confirmed by NASA for the mission at the beginning of the year.

There are 16 countries involved in the International Space Station, with $ 100 billion to date, with Russian Federation having the largest contribution to this cost.

Bridenstine, who was sworn in this past April, says there are many large corporations that are interested the commercial potential of the ISS.

Bridenstine did not reveal which companies he was speaking to because he said that those companies could find it "hard to close the business case".

The White House said earlier this year it would end direct funding of the orbiting outpost by 2025, a position that raised fierce opposition among some lawmakers.

The annual U.S. investment in the space lab ranges from $3 billion to $4 billion. In addition to the United States, other countries, such as Russia, Canada, Japan, and the European Union, participate in the International Space Station.

It cost $100 billion to build and orbits about 250 miles (400 kilometers) above the Earth.

The White House said in February it "will request market analysis and business plans from the commercial sector and solicit plans from commercial industry".

"It will be very hard to turn ISS into a truly commercial outpost because of the global agreements that the United States is involved in", said Frank Slazer, the vice president of space systems for the Aerospace Industries Association. Only 18 percent and 13 percent say that sending astronauts to Mars and the moon deserve top priority, and 37 percent and 44 percent, respectively, think that it's not important or should not be done.

Americans weigh in on the space program, lauding NASA's existence as essential. Since then, astronauts have paid more than $70 million per seat for a ride to the ISS on Russia's Soyuz spaceships.

Some of the luck-bringing customs date back to space pioneer Yuri Gagarin, but the blessing was first introduced in the 1990s.

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