The first all-private mission to the International Space Station began its return flight Sunday evening after a series of delays that left the mission halted for a week longer than expected due to weather and other inappropriate conditions.
The mission, called AX-1, was brokered by a startup based in Houston, Texas Axiom Spacewhich books rocket flights, provides all necessary training, and coordinates flights to the International Space Station for those who can afford them.
The four crew members – Michael Lopez Allegria, a former NASA astronaut turned Axiom employee who leads the mission; Israeli businessman Eitan Stibi. Canadian investor Mark Pathy; Ohio real estate mogul Larry Connor left the space station aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule on Sunday at 9:10 p.m. EDT. But as has already happened so often with this mission, there was another delay, as the capsule departed 15 minutes later than its original planned departure time of 8:55 PM EST, as the capsule’s occupants dealt with minor communications issues.
They will spend one free day flying through orbit before re-entering the atmosphere and parachuting to a landing gear off the coast of Florida around 1 p.m. ET on Monday.
AX-1, which was launched on April 8was originally described as a 10-day task, but the delay extended the task by about a week.
During the first 12 days on the space station, the group adhered to a strict schedule, which included about 14 hours per day of activities, including scientific reseach that was It has been designed by many research hospitals, universities, technology companies, and more. They also spent time organizing awareness events through video conferences with children and students.
The weather delays then gave them “more time to absorb the wonderful views of the blue planet and review the massive amount of work that was successfully completed during the mission,” according to it. Axiom.
It is not clear how much this task will cost. Axiom previously revealed the price of $55 million per seat for a 10-day trip to the International Space Station, but the company declined to comment on the financial terms of this specific mission other than saying at a press conference last year that the price was in the “tens of millions”.
The mission is made possible by the very close coordination between Axiom, SpaceX and NASA, since the International Space Station is government funded and operated. The space agency revealed some details About how much she charges to use her 20-year-old lab.
For each mission, obtaining the necessary support from NASA astronauts will cost commercial customers $5.2 million, and all mission support and planning that NASA lends is another $4.8 million. While in space, food alone costs an estimated $2,000 per day per person. Getting supplies to and from the space station for a commercial crew is $88,000 to $164,000 per person, per day.
But the additional days the AX-1 crew spent in space due to weather won’t add to their personal total price, according to a statement from NASA.
“Knowing that ISS mission objectives such as the recent Russian spacewalk or weather challenges could result in a de-docking delay, NASA negotiated the contract with a strategy that did not require reimbursement for additional de-docking delays,” the statement read. “.
This is not the first time that customers or non-astronauts who visit the International Space Station have paid, as Russia has done Sold out seats On its Soyuz spacecraft to Various Wealthy Thrill Seekers in past years.
But the AX-1 is the first mission with A crew composed entirely of private citizens with no active members of a government space corps accompanies them in the capsule during the flight to and from the International Space Station. It is also the first time that ordinary citizens have traveled to the International Space Station aboard a US-made spacecraft.
The mission started another round of discussion about whether people who pay for their way into space should be referred to as “astronauts,” although it should be noted that a trip to the International Space Station requires a much greater investment of time and money than taking a short, semi-shoring trip. Orbital on a rocket built by companies like blue origin or Virgo Galaxy.
Lopez Allegria, a veteran Four flights into space between 1995 and 2007 During his time with NASA, he said this about it: “This mission is very different from what you might have heard in some recent missions – especially sub-orbital ones. We are not space tourists. I think there is an important role for space tourism, but that’s not what it means.” Axiom”.
Although fee-paying customers would not receive astronaut wings from the US government, they were provided with a “Universal Astronaut Insignia” – a gold pin recently designed by the Association of Space Explorers, an international group It consists of astronauts from 38 countries. Lopez Allegria presented Stibbe, Pathy and Connor brooches during a welcome party after the group Link at the space station.
“Beer buff. Devoted pop culture scholar. Coffee ninja. Evil zombie fan. Organizer.”