After two weeks aboard the International Space Station (ISS), the four members of the first private space mission Ax-1 are back on Earth.
The SpaceX vessel that carried them touched sea on April 25. “Thank you again for all the support during this adventure, which has lasted longer and been even more exhilarating than expected,” said Michael Lopez-Alegria, the commander. The mission, which was initially to last eight days, was indeed extended due to weather conditions delaying the departure.
Following splashdown, teams retrieved science aboard the @SpaceX Dragon spacecraft and will now transport it to Kennedy for further investigation: https://t.co/YKYoMIVKq4 https://t.co/EjvYYCk0L7
—NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (@NASAKennedy) April 25, 2022
Organized by the company Axiom Space, Ax-1 was the first completely private mission to the ISS. The crew was made up of three American, Canadian and Israeli businessmen, having paid several tens of millions of dollars each. They are Larry Connor, head of a real estate company, Mark Pathy, boss of an investment company, and ex-pilot Eytan Stibbe, co-founder of an investment fund. .
They were accompanied by astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria, a former NASA employee who became an employee of Axiom Space. “We are not space tourists,” he argued at a press conference given in February. “It’s really not a vacation.” “They don’t go up there to stick their noses out the window. They go there to conduct important research,” added Michael Suffredini, boss of Axiom Space.
25 on-site experiences
Indeed, nearly 25 scientific experiments have been carried out on site, in collaboration with research centers on Earth. They focused in particular on aging and heart health.
A second such mission, dubbed Ax-2, has already been approved. Ultimately, Axiom Space wishes to offer up to two private flights per year to the ISS. It has also signed a contract for the transport of four missions with SpaceX.
NASA clearly encourages this privatization movement. Thanks to these private missions, she can raise funds, since Axiom Space rewards her for the use of the station.
But above all, after the retirement of the ISS around 2030, NASA no longer wishes to manage the operation of a space station. She hopes that private companies will take over the post, and that she will only have to hire their services. It will thus have a free field to concentrate on distant exploration.
Axiom Space seems best placed for this role: the company is already working on building its own space station. The first module should be launched in September 2024. The station will first be attached to the ISS, before becoming autonomous when the latter retires.