Three businessmen and a former astronaut on Friday took off the first all-private mission to the International Space Station (ISS). They did so aboard a SpaceX rocket that left the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
Since 2000, many novices have traveled to the International Space Station. Last year Russia sent a camera crew and a Japanese billionaire. But they all did it on Soyuz rockets accompanied by astronauts.
The flight was organized by Axiom Space, in collaboration with SpaceX and NASA. “We are expanding the frontiers of land-based commerce into space,” Bill Nelson, head of the US Space Agency, said shortly before liftoff.
The former astronaut who travels with business is Michael Lopez Allegria. It’s the mission leader, named Ax-1.
The three million dollar businessmen traveled to participate in the mission. One of them is American Larry Connor, a real estate company owner who plays the pilot on this flight.
Among the Canadian travelers is Mark Bathy, president of an investment firm. The third is former pilot Eitan Stipe, co-founder of an investment fund.
Stibbe is the second Israeli astronaut in history. The first is Ilan Ramon, who died in 2003 in the explosion of the US space shuttle Columbia upon his return from the International Space Station.
During the mission, about 25 experiments on aging, heart health, or stem cells will be conducted. For this reason, members of the Ax-1 reject the description of a space tourist.
“The experiments that I’m doing there, coming from Canadian universities and research institutes, probably wouldn’t have been done in space without this mission,” Pathy said.
“I think it’s important to differentiate between privileged tourists and private astronauts,” Connor said. The first is “We spend 10 to 15 hours training (and) five to 10 minutes in space (…) We spend between 750 and over 1,000 hours training.”
He and Lopez Alegria were trained on the Dragon capsule system from SpaceX. The training included, among other things, how to carry out the tasks of daily living in zero gravity as well as how to respond in the event of an emergency at the station.
However, the training of As-1S members is less extensive than that of professional astronauts, who must be able to venture out into space or repair equipment.
private space station project
The Dragon capsule is scheduled to dock with the International Space Station on Saturday. Upon arrival, the team will visit the station before proceeding with work.
It is the sixth time that SpaceX has traveled with humans (the fifth to the International Space Station). The first flight took place less than two years ago.
Axiom Space has entered into a four-mission agreement with SpaceX, and NASA has officially agreed to start a second mission, the Ax-2.
For Axiom Space, this will be the beginning of a stage toward an ambitious goal: to build its own space station. “It is important for us to be able to replicate ‘these tasks’ on a smaller scale,” said Michael Suffredini, president of the company.
The first module of the special station is scheduled to launch in September 2024. The structure will first be attached to the International Space Station before becoming independent when the orbital laboratory is disabled, which is expected by 2030.
NASA wants to monetize these special missions, and in the long run, it won’t have to manage the operation of a station but rather hire the services of special structures to focus on distant exploration.