This article appeared in the September 30, 2020 edition of the Monitor Daily.

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NASA launches a new era with face cream, Tom Cruise, and reality TV

Astronaut Dale A. Gardner holds up a "For Sale" sign in 1984, referring to two failed satellites retrieved during a spacewalk. Today, NASA is embarking on more marketing and business deals.
David Clark Scott
Audience Engagement Editor

I’m torn. Should we be delighted or discouraged by NASA’s deal with Estée Lauder?

On Thursday, 10 small bottles of a “skin care serum” will be tucked in with the 8,000 pounds of supplies being sent to the International Space Station. The cosmetics company is paying NASA $128,000 – $17,500 per astronaut hour – for a face cream photo shoot. 

This marketing deal is another facet of NASA’s partnership with private industry to help subsidize its $21 billion annual budget. Coming soon: a new reality TV show, “Space Heroes,” where the winner spends 10 days aboard the space station. And NASA says actor Tom Cruise and director Doug Liman are planning to film an action movie aboard the space station

In 2019, NASA released its rate card, which includes charging $35,000 per night for food and lodging at the space station. The space agency plans to dedicate up to 5% of astronaut time to commercial activities

On the one hand, this feels crass. Space represents pure science, a celestial frontier, the outer limits of imagination and possibilities. Is NASA’s new shopping cart the equivalent of erecting billboards at the Grand Canyon? 

Or, might this moment be compared to the first international passenger flights from London to Paris in 1919? That milestone led to the opening of air travel – the freedom of movement – to all humanity. 

What do you think?

This article appeared in the September 30, 2020 edition of the Monitor Daily.

Read 09/30 edition
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