The first completely private crew to travel to the International Space Station, consisting of three millionaire businessmen and escorting their former NASA astronaut, will return to Earth today
Their journey to the ISS was expected to last more than a week but ended up taking more than two. Astronauts will not be charged extra for their stay.
American, Canadian and Israeli businessmen arrived at the space station on Saturday, April 9 after pay $55 million (£42 million) per person for rocket trip and accommodation.
After more than a week on the ISS, the Ax-1 crew unpacked and started heading back to Earth. They are expected to land shortly after 5pm UK time.
Their return was delayed due to bad weather and a number of other problems, including a Russian spacewalk, but NASA said its contract with Axiom meant no payment was needed. extra payment for the delay.
The plan is for the SpaceX Dragon capsule to crash off the coast of Florida, where the capsule and crew will be recovered by a team of experts.
The launch was the sixth human spaceflight by SpaceX and the first private launch that it docked with the ISS.
The four businessmen said they were not tourists because they were conducting commercial scientific research while on board.
This research includes studies on “future space habitat and satellite self-assembly technology, cancer stem cell research, and air purification”.
The three paying customers are: Larry Connor of Dayton, Ohio, who runs the Connor Group; Mark Pathy, founder and chief executive officer of Montreal’s Mavrik Corp; and Eytan Stibbe of Israel, a former fighter pilot and founding partner of Vital Capital.
Michael López-Alegría, the former NASA astronaut who escorted the men, is Axiom’s vice president of business development. Before that, he flew into space four times between 1995 and 2007.
Their mission was also the first to have a completely private crew travel to the orbiting outpost. Axiom says it won’t be the last and several others have been suggested.
These missions are part of the company’s roadmap towards building Axiom Station, which aims to be the world’s first private space station in low Earth orbit.
NASA hopes the market for trips to private space stations will take off in the next few years, eventually leading to the space agency pulling the ISS out of the sky.
America’s response to Russia’s war in Ukraine prompted the head of Roscosmos to commit no longer collaborating on international projects.
NASA’s plans, slated for invasion and sanctions, could mean the ISS will be taken out of orbit in January 2031, and crash into a “spaceship cemetery” in the farthest part of the Earth’s surface.