The spacecraft, which separated from the rocket after reaching orbit, is now free-flying in orbit and will spend all day Friday maneuvering slowly closer to the ISS, where it is due to dock on Saturday around 7:45 a.m. ET.
The trip was brokered by Houston, Texas-based startup Axiom Space, which seeks to book rocket flights, provide all necessary training and coordinate flights to the ISS for anyone who can afford it. . All of this is in line with the US government and private sector goal of driving commercial activity on the ISS and beyond.
Aboard this mission, called AX-1, are Michael Lopez-Alegría, a former NASA astronaut turned Axiom employee who commands the mission; Israeli businessman Eytan Stibbe; Canadian investor Mark Pathy; and Ohio-based real estate magnate Larry Connor.
It’s not the first time paying customers or non-astronauts have visited the ISS, as Russia has sold seats on its Soyuz spacecraft to various wealthy thrill seekers. in past years. But this is the first mission that includes a crew made up entirely of private citizens without active members of a government astronaut corps. It’s also the first time that private citizens have traveled to the ISS aboard a US-made spacecraft.
Here’s everything you need to know.
How much did all this cost?
The mission is made possible by very close coordination between Axiom, SpaceX and NASA, since the ISS is funded and operated by the government.
Food alone costs $2,000 per day, per person, in space. Getting supplies to and from the space station for a commercial crew costs an additional $88,000 to $164,000 per person per day. For each mission, providing the necessary NASA astronaut support will cost commercial customers an additional $5.2 million, and all mission support and planning that NASA lends will be an additional $4.8 million. .
Who fly ?
Is it safe to go to the ISS, given the conflict with Russia?
Russia is the United States’ main partner on the ISS, and the space station has long been hailed as a symbol of post-Cold War cooperation.
Despite all the bluster, NASA has repeatedly sought reassurance that, behind the scenes, NASA and its Russian counterparts are working together seamlessly.
“NASA is aware of recent comments regarding the International Space Station. U.S. sanctions and export control measures continue to enable U.S.-Russian civil space cooperation on the space station,” said the NASA Administrator, Bill Nelson, in a recent press release. “The professional relationship between our international partners, astronauts and cosmonauts continues for the safety and mission of all aboard the ISS.”
Are they astronauts or tourists?
This is a currently simmering question in the spaceflight community.
The US government has traditionally awarded astronaut wings to anyone traveling more than 50 miles above the Earth’s surface. But commercial astronaut wings — a relatively new designation assigned by the Federal Aviation Administration — might not be given out as generously.
Whether it’s fair to still refer to people who pay for space travel as “astronauts” is an open question, and countless observers – including NASA astronauts – have weighed in.
If you ask the crew of the AX-1, they don’t like to be called “tourists”.
“This mission is very different from what you may have heard about on some of the recent missions, especially suborbital ones. We are not space tourists,” Lopez-Alegría told reporters earlier this month- ci, referring to the brief supersonic flights organized by Jeff. Bezos’ Blue Origin company. “I think space tourism has an important role to play, but that’s not what Axiom is about.”
The crew underwent extensive training for this mission, taking on many of the same duties as professional astronauts-in-training. But the fact is that the three paying customers for this flight – Stibbe, Pathy and Connor – were not selected from a pool of thousands of applicants and don’t devote much of their lives to the effort.
Axiom itself has been more flippant about word usage in the past.
What will they do while in space?
Each of the crew members has a list of research projects they plan to work on.
Connor will research how spaceflight affects senescent cells, which are cells that have ceased the normal replication process and are “linked to multiple age-related diseases,” according to Axiom. This research will be done in partnership with the Mayo Clinic and the Cleveland Clinic.
Among the items on Pathy’s to-do list are additional medical research, more focused on children’s health, which he will conduct in partnership with several Canadian hospitals, and conservation awareness initiatives.
Stibbe will also research and focus on “educational and artistic activities to connect the younger generation in Israel and around the world,” according to Axiom. Stibbe flies on behalf of the Ramon Foundation – a nonprofit space education organization named for Israel’s first astronaut, Ilan Ramon, who died in the 2003 space shuttle Columbia disaster. Stibbe’s Axiom Biography says he and Ramon shared a “close” friendship. .
During downtime, the crew will also have the chance to enjoy unobstructed views of Earth. And, at some point, they will share a meal with the other astronauts on board. Their food was prepared in partnership with celebrity chef and philanthropist Jose Andrés. Their meals “draw on traditional flavors and dishes from Commander López-Alegría’s native Spain,” according to Axiom.