Friday, April 19, 2024

First all-private astronaut mission to ISS takes off

On Friday, April 8, an Axiom Mission 1 (Ax-1), the first all-private astronaut mission to the International Space Station (ISS), lifted off atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket at 11:17 a.m. EDT from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Currently, four private astronauts are on their way to the lab.

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket propelled the Dragon Endeavour spacecraft carrying Ax-1 crew members – Mission Commander Michael López-Alegría, Pilot Larry Connor, and Mission Specialists Mark Pathy and Eytan Stibbe – into orbit. The crew will spend more than a week conducting scientific research, outreach, and commercial activities on the space station.

“What a historic launch! Thank you to the dedicated teams at NASA who have worked tirelessly to make this mission a reality,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said. “NASA’s partnership with industry through the commercial cargo and crew programs has led our nation to this new era in human spaceflight – one with limitless potential. Congratulations to Axiom, SpaceX, and the Axiom-1 crew for making this first private mission to the International Space Station a reality.”

On April 9, at around 5:30 a.m. EDT, Endeavour will autonomously dock to the space-facing port of the station’s Harmony module. The welcome ceremony is expected to start shortly after the Dragon hatch opens at about 9:30 a.m. Saturday. NASA will provide live coverage of the Endeavour docking, hatch opening, and a ceremony to welcome the crew. Once aboard the station, the Axiom crew will meet the Expedition 67 crew members, including NASA astronauts Thomas Marshburn, Raja Chari, and Kayla Barron, European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Matthias Maurer, and Roscosmos cosmonauts Oleg Artemyev, Sergey Korsakov, and Denis Matveev.

“We will usher in a new era in private human spaceflight when they cross the threshold to enter the International Space Station,” said Michael Suffredini, president and CEO of Axiom Space. “This journey is the culmination of long hours of training, planning, and dedication from the crew and the entire Axiom Space team, our partners at SpaceX, and of course, a credit to NASA’s vision to develop a sustainable presence in low-Earth orbit.”