The first private mission to the International Space Station has taken off
Steph Deschamps / April 8, 2022
Three businessmen and a former NASA astronaut took off on Friday, April 8, aboard a SpaceX rocket for the first entirely private mission to the International Space Station, where they will stay for just over a week.
They paid millions of dollars to be the first passengers to reach the International Space Station (ISS) by private flight. Three businessmen and a former NASA astronaut boarded a Dragon capsule Friday, April 8, at Kennedy Space Center under the blue skies of Cape Canaveral, Florida. The rocket lifted off at 11:17 a.m.local time.
The Dragon capsule is scheduled to dock with the ISS on Saturday around 12:30 p.m. upon arrival, the crew will receive a tour of the station, then get to work. This is only the sixth time SpaceX has flown humans (the fifth to the ISS). The first flight took place less than two years ago.
If novices have already gone to the ISS since the 2000s, it is the first time that a private company, Axiom Space, has organized the trip. This one is done in collaboration with SpaceX and NASA, paid for the use of its station. We extend to space the terrestrial frontiers of the trade, congratulated Bill Nelson, the boss of the American space agency, shortly before the takeoff.
The commander of the mission, named Ax-1, is Spanish-American Michael Lopez-Alegria, a former astronaut with the U.S. space agency who has already visited the ISS. The other three crew members paid several tens of millions of dollars each for the experience. The role of pilot is occupied by the American Larry Connor, head of a real estate company.
The Dragon capsule is scheduled to dock with the ISS on Saturday around 7:30 a.m.Upon arrival, the crew will receive a tour of the station and then get to work. The four men have a full schedule, with some 25 experiments, on aging, heart health, or stem cells. The experiments I'm taking up there, which come from Canadian universities and research institutions, probably wouldn't have had the opportunity to be tested in space without this mission, said Mark Pathy, a Canadian businessman and owner of an investment company.
For this and other reasons, Ax-1 members refuse to be called space tourists. I think it's important to differentiate between space tourists and private astronauts, said Connor. The former spend 10 to 15 hours training, five to 10 minutes in space. (...) We have spent anywhere from 750 to over 1,000 hours training.
Axiom Space has signed an agreement for a total of four missions with SpaceX. NASA has already formally approved the principle of a second mission, Ax-2. For the American company, this is a first step towards an ambitious goal: building its own space station.
It's important for us to be able to repeat such missions on a smaller scale, said Michael Suffredini, the company's executive. The first module of this private station is scheduled to launch in September 2024. The structure will first be attached to the ISS, before becoming autonomous when the latter is retired, a priori around 2030.
This movement of privatization of the low earth orbit is encouraged by NASA, which wishes to generate income thanks to these private missions. This would allow it, in the long run, to no longer have to manage the operation of a station, but rather to rent the services of private structures, in order to concentrate on distant exploration.