The first all-private team of astronauts launched to the International Space Station (ISS) safely arrived at the orbital research platform on Saturday (9) to begin a week-long science mission, which is a milestone for commercial spaceflight.
The arrival came about 21 hours after a four-man team representing Houston-based Axiom Space lifted off Friday from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, to command a NASA Falcon 9 rocket. SpaceX.
The Crew Dragon capsule was put into orbit by the rocket that docked to the International Space Station around 8:30 a.m. ET, as the spacecraft flew about 420 km over the Atlantic Ocean.
The final approach phase was delayed due to a technical glitch that halted video playback, and is used to monitor the arrival of the capsule. The problem forced Crew Dragon to pause the course and maintain its position 20 meters from the station for approximately 45 minutes while the mission controller resolved the problem.
Takeoff moment of the first fully private space mission, which arrived at the International Space Station on Saturday (9) – Photo: REUTERS / Thom Baur
The Axiom team, which plans to spend eight days in orbit, was led by Spanish-born NASA astronaut Michael Lopez Alegria, 63, the company’s vice president of business development.
The second-in-command was Larry Connor, a real estate and technology entrepreneur and stunt pilot from Ohio, who was appointed as the mission pilot. Connor is almost 70 years old, but the company has not stated his exact age.
The Ax-1 crew members include Israeli philanthropist and former combat pilot Eitan Step, 64, and Canadian businessman and philanthropist Mark Bathy, 52, both of whom serve as mission specialists.
Stipe became the second Israeli to fly into space, after Ilan Ramon, who died along with six NASA crew members on The space shuttle Columbia disaster in 2003.
They will join the seven crew members who currently occupy the International Space Station, and are paid for by the government – three American astronauts, one German, from the European Space Agency, and three Russian cosmonauts.
Eitan Stipe, Michael Lopez Allegria, Mark Pathy and Larry Connor, crew members of the Ax-1 mission, in a photo posted on February 24, 2022 – Photo: Axiom Space / AFP
The newcomers have conducted twenty scientific and biomedical experiments to carry out aboard the International Space Station, including research into brain health, heart stem cells, cancer and aging.
The mission, a collaboration between the rocket company Axiom SpaceX by Elon Musk and NASA, the three parties pointed out as an important step in expanding commercial space activities, known by experts as the economics of low Earth orbit.
NASA officials say this market will help the US space agency focus more of its resources on major science exploration, including the Artemis program to return humans to the Moon and eventually to Mars.
Although the space station receives occasional civilian visitors, the Ax-1 mission is the first commercial team of astronauts to be sent to the International Space Station with the pretense of being an in-orbit research laboratory.
The Axiom mission is also the sixth human spaceflight of SpaceX In about two years, after four missions by NASA astronauts to the space station and the launch of “Inspiration 4” in September, which sent All-civilian crew in orbit for the first time. This flight did not dock at the International Space Station.
Axiom executives say their projects and plans to build a private space station far exceed the million-dollar thrill-seeking space tourism services offered by companies like Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic, owned by billionaire entrepreneurs Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson, respectively.
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