So, rather than abandoning the aging laboratory, NASA is transitioning the station's operations to the private sector to stimulate the development of a low-Earth-orbit economy and give companies a place to demonstrate technologies needed for the 2024 moon landing.
NASA has announced a plan to allow tourists to fly on the International Space Station starting next year.
It paves the way for private citizens to travel to the ISS aboard rocket-and-capsule launch systems being developed by Boeing Co and Elon Musk's SpaceX. The agency's goal is to foster a robust ecosystem in low-Earth orbit through which it can purchase services as one of many customers.
The trips are likely to cost each private astronaut tens of thousands of dollars. However, astronauts will have to pay a private company to get to the space station, and those tickets are will probably cost millions.
For starters, the space agency issued a new directive that allows commercial manufacturing and production to occur on the ISS, as well as marketing activities. NASA has published a price list for the ISS, and it's setting aside five percent of the station's annual resources (including astronaut time and cargo mass) for commercial use.
The move is part of a broader push by the Trump administration to end government funding for the ISS, and allow commercial enterprise to fund what is now astronauts' home in space.
The announcement came as NASA unveiled its new business model on Friday, revealing a plan to incorporate more commercial and marketing opportunities 'both in low-Earth orbit and around the moon'.
Donald Trump published a budget past year where he called for the station to be self financing and not reliant on government funds.
Although the private astronauts won't work for NASA, they will still receive rigorous astronaut training from NASA to ensure that they are qualified for spaceflight.