SpaceX completed the historic first all-private (commercial) astronaut mission to the International Space Station (ISS) managed by Axiom Space. The world-leading aerospace company launched the Axiom AX-1 mission with a flight-proven Falcon 9 rocket on April 8th from Launch Complex-39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
Axiom’s Vice President of business development is former NASA astronaut Michael López-Alegría served as AX-1 mission commander. He led paying crewmembers: American investor Larry Connor, former Israeli fighter pilot Eytan Stibbe, and Canadian investor Mark Pathy. They launched aboard SpaceX’s previously-flown Crew Dragon Endeavour to orbit. After a journey of around 21-hours, the spacecraft docked to the ISS Harmony module on April 9 to initiate a planned eight-day mission at the orbiting laboratory.
However, the AX-1 crew had the opportunity to enjoy an extra week in outer space due to unfavorable conditions on Earth. They had the privilege to witness extraordinary views of our home planet from the ISS Cupola, as well as conduct dozens of science research in microgravity, including research on cancer cell growth, a demonstration testing a new air purifier for station use, and a robotic technology study with swarms of autonomous tiles that could be used for future in-space construction. The crew also had an educational video call with students from Houston, Texas, during their time in orbit.
Dragon proceeding toward Waypoint 1 pic.twitter.com/i1RsDwAZEX— SpaceX (@SpaceX) April 9, 2022
ICYMI: the #Ax1 astronauts answered questions from Houston-area students @SpaceCenterHou earlier today, including this question about free time onboard @Space_Station.— Axiom Space (@Axiom_Space) April 13, 2022
Rewatch: https://t.co/ROYSpJFkWw pic.twitter.com/9cV9qQU4m0
After a total of 17-days in space, the AX-1 Crew Dragon Endeavour undocked from the ISS at 9:10 p.m. EDT on Sunday, April 24. Approximately 16-hours later, the brave quartet crossed Earth’s fiery atmosphere and the vehicle splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Florida today, April 25. “Welcome back to planet Earth. The Axiom-1 mission marks the beginning of a new paradigm for human spaceflight. We hope you enjoyed the extra few days in space and thanks for choosing to fly SpaceX,” the company’s Mission Control said during the Live broadcast. Endeavour looks like a burnt marshmallow as SpaceX teams fished it out of the salty water with a recovery vessel. The capsule also brought back more than 200 pounds of science and supplies from the ISS, including NASA hardware and results of research. SpaceX teams opened the hatch and helped the crew out of the vehicle to transport them to KSC to get medical check-ups.
Splashdown of Dragon confirmed pic.twitter.com/m0C7GjwhYh— SpaceX (@SpaceX) April 25, 2022
“The success of this first private astronaut mission to the International Space Station is an important step in opening opportunities for space travelers and achieving NASA’s goal of enabling commercial business off the planet in low-Earth orbit,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “This progress has been made possible by NASA’s work with private industry – especially the Commercial Crew Program. I’m incredibly proud of the NASA, SpaceX, and Axiom teams for safely completing this landmark mission. Welcome home, Ax-1!” The leader of NASA's human spaceflight program Kathy Lueders congratulated SpaceX and Axiom for completing the mission successfully --"Congratulations AX-1 for a successful splashdown and mission! This concludes the first all-private astronaut mission to the Space Station, which ushers in a new era of human spaceflight," she stated.
“NASA is partnering with commercial companies to establish a robust low-Earth orbit economy – one where government and private astronauts live and work aboard the space station and future commercial habitats,” the agency said in a press release. Axiom Space is negotiating with NASA for a second private astronaut mission to the Space Station, details will be released later this year.
Featured Image Source: SpaceX & NASA
About the Author
Evelyn Janeidy Arevalo
Evelyn J. Arevalo joined Tesmanian in 2019 to cover news as a Space Journalist and SpaceX Starbase Texas Correspondent. Evelyn is specialized in rocketry and space exploration. The main topics she covers are SpaceX and NASA.