On April 8, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will launch the first all-private expedition to the International Space Station (ISS).
The expedition, organized by Axiom Space in the United States, will be crewed by one veteran NASA astronaut who is now employed by the company and three wealthy entrepreneurs who will spend eight days on board the ISS.
The commander of the Ax-1 mission will be astronaut Michael López-Alegra. He flew on the Space Shuttle three times and visited the International Space Station once during his NASA tenure. Over the course of three trips, he completed ten spacewalks, the most of any NASA astronaut to date.
Larry Connor, a US businessman, and a private pilot will be the mission’s pilot. Eytan Stibbe, an Israeli businessman and former fighter pilot, and Mark Pathy, a Canadian entrepreneur, will act as mission specialists.
Each of the three paid $55 million for their seats.
Why Is This Important?
The International Space Station has already hosted space tourists, but not as part of a wholly privatized crew. And, unlike most of the other all-private journeys to space in recent months, this mission has a set of scientific objectives that will see the crew collaborate with the ISS’s professional astronauts.
During this period, they will conduct a number of health-related experiments, observe Earth, and test a prototype for magnetically self-assembling tiles dubbed TESSERAE, among other tests.
Will We See More Missions Like This In The Future?
This mission is the first in a much broader Axiom Space campaign. The company is now developing its own space station, dubbed Axiom Station, with the first module set to launch in late 2024.
During the press briefing, Axiom Space CEO Michael Suffredini stated that it is designed to help replace the ISS when it is finally retired and deorbited.
We can expect to see star Tom Cruise aboard a future Axiom Space flight filming scenes for an upcoming film if all goes well with these flights.