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NASA Opens Space Station To Private Corporations, Asks Tech Firms For Ideas

By Brandon Mercer
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9/2010 -- NASA astronaut Tracy Caldwell Dyson, Expedition 24 flight engineer, looks through a window in the Cupola of the International Space Station. A blue and white part of Earth and the blackness of space are visible through the windows. The image was a self-portrait using natural light. (NASA'Tracy Dyson)

9/2010 — NASA astronaut Tracy Caldwell Dyson, Expedition 24 flight engineer, looks through a window in the Cupola of the International Space Station. A blue and white part of Earth and the blackness of space are visible through the windows. The image was a self-portrait using natural light. (NASA’Tracy Dyson)

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SILICON VALLEY (CBS SF) — Forget Silicon Valley and Bay Area rents, there is no higher rent than this–an office space that’s quite literally out of this world. The views are amazing, but the commute is a bit expensive, and the office quarters are cramped. Still, the work that can be done up here is only possible in this rarest of places, 220 miles up.

As the International Space Station is now old enough to drive, it’s also showing its age. Sixteen years in space, and another ten years of planned life has NASA looking for options to evolve the orbiting outpost, and that’s where corporations come in.

The space agency is looking for ways to create greater access for companies to use the space station (ISS) for private enterprise.

All puns aside, Google workers wouldn’t be hopping into Soyuz capsules in Mountain View to head up to work, but theoretically, Google could invest in some real estate above earth for a project.

In the “Request for Information” announced this week, NASA is asking companies for their ideas on what they would do on board the station to develop a commercial market, and help the agency continue exploration.

Already, Tesla and PayPal co-founder Elon Musk’s company is handling cargo missions to the station under SpaceX.

NASA hopes to make the space near earth a commercial project, and focus instead on deep space.

“Now is an exciting time for space research and developing exploration capabilities,” said William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for Human Exploration and Operations at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “After 10 years of continuous habitation in low-Earth orbit, we know microgravity provides data unattainable on Earth. We are already seeing benefits in pharmaceuticals, medical robotics and materials sciences.”

The hope is companies will react to NASA’s request with ideas that will help, “to pave the way for private microgravity research facilities of the future.”

As for Google? NASA does ask companies to develop crew transportation to the station beyond NASA’s requirements, so who knows. Maybe a Google bus to space is possible.

Responses are due by June 30th, Google. Or any other tech company that could needs to expand.

NASA SEEKS CORPORATE INPUT: Request For Information

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