NASA just days away from historic ISS mission

space station approach

NASA is just days away from launching its first space tourism mission to the International Space Station (ISS).

Currently targeting Sunday, April 3, for launch from Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the four-person “private astronaut mission,” as NASA describes it, will travel aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft powered by the company’s workhorse. , Falcon 9 rocket.

Organized by Texas-based Axiom Space, the pioneering Ax-1 mission is staffed by Canadian investor and philanthropist Mark Pathy, American entrepreneur Larry Connor, former Israeli Air Force pilot Eytan Stibbe and mission commander Michael López-Alegría, a former NASA astronaut. Pathy, Connor and Stibbe are said to have paid about $55 million each to visit the station some 250 miles above Earth.

The amateur astronauts, along with experienced space traveler López-Alegría, will spend approximately 10 days aboard the orbiting outpost, along with the current crew of professional astronauts.

According to Axiom Space, the crew trained for hundreds of hours for the upcoming mission, with careful attention to safety, health, ISS systems, launch site operations and emergency protocols. Additional training has also been provided in handling the more than 25 research and technology demonstration payloads that visitors will work on during their stay on board the station.

The pre-launch activities are progressing. Yesterday, the #Ax1 crew completed test drive – also known as the Crew Equipment Interface Test (CEIT) – in the Dragon spacecraft they will fly aboard to and from the @Space

— Axiom Space (@Axiom_Space) March 18, 2022

The Ax-1 mission has also been described as a “pathfinder mission” for Axiom Space’s Axiom Station, a commercial space station it plans to deploy in the coming years after the current ISS retires in 2031.

NASA, in partnership with commercial companies such as SpaceX and Axion Space, is interested in exploring the space tourism market as part of efforts to raise funds for the agency and increase access to space, although critics suggest the flights are unnecessary. and damage the environment while the super rich look for ways to blow their money.

While NASA’s Russian counterpart, Roscosmos, has hosted a number of space tourism trips to the ISS over the years — most recently featuring a billionaire businessman from Japan — the Ax-1 mission will be NASA’s first attempt to recruit amateur astronauts. to take to the station. If the mission goes well, expect NASA to organize extra trips for people who can afford it.

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