Moscow - - US astronauts will be flying at an unprecedented level of comfort and style, thanks to a new agreement between NASA and Russian space shuttle operator Retro Rocket. The upgraded International Space Station package brings first-class service to space travel for the first time.
Round-trip tickets to the station had originally cost $65 million per seat. The Russians raised the price last spring to $70 million a ticket, without any stated improvement in service.
That didn't sound fair to Susan Reynolds, Assistant Deputy Director of NASA's Travel Department. She immediately went online to see if she could get a better deal, only to discover that the Russians have a lock on the space station route.
With the demise of the space shuttle, NASA has no rocket system capable of servicing the International Space Station, which is endlessly circling in the low Earth orbit.
"It's a little like a NASCAR race without a Victory Lane," said Herman "Blip" Keselowski, NASA's liaison with Travelocity. "It's the classic going around in circles boondoggle."
Now, thanks to Reynolds and Keselowski, the shuttle has been bumped up to a first-class boondoggle. "They've installed wider seats that recline 23% further and provide 16% more legroom," said NASA astronaut Mel Freeman. "For dinner, we have a choice of no-gravity entrées, including ribeye on a rope and flightless duck."
Also included in the first class package is an upgraded toiletries kit and priority boarding and disembarking.
"You want to get off of that thing as quickly as you can," said Keselowski, who pointed out that the 60s-designed Soyuz spacecraft uses essentially the same technology that put John Glenn into orbit during the Johnson administration.
"The word 'soyuz' has become another way of saying 'keep your fingers crossed' in Russian," he added.
Asked why NASA didn't continue its shuttle program, the space-age travel agent replied, "There are a billion and a half reasons. That's how much each shuttle flight cost -$1.5 billion. And they didn't even have a frequent flyer program."
Funded with the sole purpose of making space travel affordable and safe, NASA's space shuttle program did quite the opposite, costing 14 astronauts their lives while burning up almost $200 billion in taxpayer funds.
At least the International Space Station is creating some jobs. Last month, astronauts replaced an environmental systems pump on the station. That experience landed them interviews at the prestigious Iowa Institute for Heating and Air Conditioning Repair when they return to Earth.
"We welcome former NASA personnel," said Institute President Ned Frothing. "They'll find plenty of parking in the rear and all-you-can-eat doughnuts every Thursday."