By Taylor Craig

With its sights set on a return to the moon, NASA announced Friday that it will sell time and space aboard the International Space Station to private companies for the very first time.

“This is a momentous day for, not only NASA and the space economy, but honestly for U.S. industry as a whole,” said the space agency’s CFO Jeff DeWit.

The plan is to start off with two private flights per year. DeWit says companies are already securing seats with SpaceX and Boeing for a booked private flight to the ISS.

“This is great for the U.S. economy, and it shows the American taxpayers that NASA is using their money well,” DeWit told Cheddar from the NASDAQ MarketSite.

NASA works with over 50 companies right now that test or manufacture products in space. 20 were in attendance at Friday’s announcement.

DeWit explained that the zero gravity environment in space can be beneficial for making retinas that could allow blind people to see, for instance. He explains that retinas can’t be manufactured on Earth because gravity causes the materials to collapse onto themselves.

“There’s so many uses up in space and that’s what we wanna do right now is use these American resources to spur the American economy, and use that extra revenue now to go further in space, get back to the moon and go to Mars,” DeWit said, setting a lunar deadline for 2024.

While private astronauts will now be allowed aboard the ISS (at an estimated $58 million a seat), DeWit envisions that within decades companies will be building small space stations for private use.

“If there was a space ETF, I would expect it would be up very, very large today,” DeWit said.