Back to Earth. Three businessmen, accompanied by a former NASA astronaut, landed off Florida on Monday aboard a SpaceX spacecraft, after spending more than two weeks on the International Space Station.
The capsule and its four passengers touched sea around 7 p.m. (1 p.m. in Florida) after a vertiginous descent: they were slowed down by their entry into the atmosphere, then by huge parachutes. The four passengers were then to be picked up from the Atlantic Ocean, off Jacksonville, by a SpaceX ship.
The first completely private mission
Named Ax-1, this mission organized by the American company Axiom Space was the first completely private one to go to the International Space Station (ISS) – Axiom bought the means of transport from SpaceX, and paid NASA for the use from his station.
The four crew members – the three customers paid tens of millions of dollars each – had taken off on April 8 from Florida. They had arrived on the ISS the next day, and were initially only supposed to spend eight days there. But their departure had to be postponed several times last week due to bad weather conditions. They thus finally spent 15 days in the ISS, and 17 in total in orbit.
Works on aging or heart health
The four men, who refuse to be considered “space tourists”, have indeed carried out, they argue, a whole series of experiments on board the ISS, in partnership with research centers and universities. This work has focused on aging, or even heart health.
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. This mission for Axiom Space, which has reached an agreement for a total of four missions with SpaceX, is the first step towards an ambitious project: the construction of its own space station.
The first module of this private station should be launched in September 2024. The structure will first be attached to the ISS, before becoming independent when the latter is retired, a priori around 2030. This privatization movement low orbit is encouraged by NASA, which wishes to generate revenue through these private missions, and eventually no longer have to manage the operation of a station, but rather hire the services of private structures, in order to focus on distant exploration.