Private Astronauts Splash Down After Space Station Visit



The first all-private astronaut crew to visit the International Space Station (ISS) splashed down around 1:07 p.m. ET Monday, concluding a 17-day excursion marking NASA’s first collaboration with private companies on a space tourism mission, a milestone in the commercialization of space travel.

Key Facts

The four-person crew splashed down without incident in the Atlantic near Jacksonville, Florida, aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule.

The mission, organized by Houston-based company Axiom Space, departed the ISS around 9 p.m. ET Sunday, carrying four crew and over 200 pounds of science equipment and other supplies.

The mission, designated AX-1, was commanded by former NASA astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegría, 63, and included passengers Larry Connor, 63, an Ohio real estate CEO, Mark Pathy, 52, CEO of Canada-based investment firm Mavrik Corp, and Eytan Stibbe, 64, an Israeli businessman.

The AX-1 crew’s roughly 16-hour voyage back to Earth was delayed due to poor weather conditions, Reuters reported.

NASA is working to arrange a second Axiom-led private visit to the ISS, and for commercial accommodations to be attached to the station, the agency said.


Key Background

The AX-1 mission lifted off from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center April 8, tasked with performing outreach and conducting scientific research on stem cells and demonstrating “self-assembling spacecraft” technology. Though the crew were initially scheduled to spend eight days on the ISS, their visit was extended due to bad weather on Earth. Nasa said the AX-1 mission marked a major step in the agency’s initiative to expand commercial low-Earth orbit activity, enabling more people to visit space. However, space tourism will be only accessible to the wealthy in the near term, the New York Times reported. Axiom plans to establish its own space station, which will first exist as an attachment to the ISS before detaching and orbiting independently.

Big Number

$55 million. That’s how much a seat on the AX-1 mission cost, the New York Times reported.

What To Watch For

SpaceX has been contracted to provide transportation for three additional Axiom missions to the ISS during the coming two years, Reuters reported.

Further Reading

“First Private Mission To Space Station Takes Off From Florida” (Forbes)


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