With billionaire Jeff Bezos joining billionaire Richard Branson in almost-space, and billionaire Elon Musk raking in more money transporting NASA astronauts to space, winning NASA contracts to put humans on the moon and planning – with or without NASA – to send humans to Mars, it’s no wonder a popular meme making the rounds asks the question, “What if UFOs are just billionaires from other planets?” Unlike many memes, it’s a serious question … and one reason why space travel may be just for billionaires is a main reason why NASA’s budget is so high – the cost of space food. Is a new NASA study researching bacteria that eat rocks actually creating a future menu?
Food -- $2000 per person, per day
Rate for food and beverages from NASA (free-flight and/or docked). Upmass and trash disposal not included.
That doesn’t sound so bad, does it? What’s upmass?
Upmass/Disposal -- $88,000 - $164,000 per person, per day
Estimated rate for pre-staging food and crew provisions on ISS, as well as disposing of pre-staged items on NASA vehicles. Cost will vary depending upon quantities of items flown and disposed of on NASA vehicles.
NASA recently updated its prices for “private astronaut missions” to the ISS and the cost of food and waste disposal alone may be the real hidden reason why Bezos and Branson only spent a few minutes in near-space and didn’t serve snacks to their passengers. NASA isn’t competing with either company for the space tourism business – those prices are for corporations interested in conducting scientific and research missions on the ISS. As it explains:
“The new pricing for private astronaut missions reflects full reimbursement for the value of NASA resources that are above the space station baseline capability.”
“Due to the complexity of private astronaut missions and differing mission concepts, reimbursable values for these missions may vary.”
Of course they will. NASA knows that government contracts never go down in price – only up. To put these prices in layman’s terms, Space Daily looked at the cost of sending an item that most people travelers want to take along with them on a flight.
“The cost of a single 16-ounce bottle of water ranges from $9,100 to $43,180.”
$43,800! Can you go with water from Costco instead of the truffle-infused, gold-flaked artisan stuff from the Alps? Of course, when you’re on an expense account and someone else is paying for it, money is no object. An Italian astronaut who took an espresso machine with him to the ISS set the Italian government back $1.9 million.
Perhaps we should just wait for a Star Trek-style replicator which fictionally turned pure energy into food, complete with plates and utensils. Physicists from Imperial College London’s Blackett Physics Laboratory proved in 2014 that it’s possible to create matter from light, and Cemvita Factory Inc. in Houston is said to be developing a photobioreactor that converts carbon dioxide into nutrients and pharmaceutics. However, most current projects use 3D printers that merely turn matter into different forms of matter. No wonder NASA is still recycling urine into water.
If all else fails, NASA's BRAILLE Project is studying life in volcanic caves as an analog for possible life on Mars and found bacteria that lives by consuming rocks. Is it any wonder Elon Musk is now saying Tesla’s new Cybertruck’s may cost a million dollars each?
As Giorgio Tsoukalos might say:
“I’m not saying it’s billionaire aliens … but it’s billionaire aliens.”