May 17, 2022

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Four members of a private space mission have returned to Earth

Released Monday, April 25, 2022 at 11:44 pm.

The three businessmen, along with a former NASA astronaut, landed in Florida on Monday aboard the SpaceX spacecraft after spending more than two weeks on the International Space Station.

The capsule touched down in the Atlantic Ocean at 1:06 pm (GMT 5:06 pm) local time. Its reverse descent was slowed by entering the atmosphere, and then by larger parachutes.

“For all those who have supported us around the world, you have done an incredible job, this is an incredible job,” said one of the passengers, American Larry Connor, from a capsule still thrown into the sea.

The craft was then loaded onto the SpaceX ship. The four passengers exited one by one as they needed time to re-apply the force of gravity.

Named Ax-1, the mission is the first fully personal mission to the International Space Station (ISS). The American company Axium Space purchased transport equipment from SpaceX and paid NASA to use its station.

“A lot of people are looking at whether this task is practical,” Derek Hosman, CEO of Axiom Space, told a news conference. “Can you train them in a short time? Prepare them for a task that will have less impact on the ISS team? I think we have proven that it’s possible.”

The four men – three clients who paid $ 10 million each, and former Hispanic-American astronaut Michael Lopez-Alexria – left Florida on April 8. They arrived at the ISS the next day, where they had to spend only the first eight days.

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But their return was postponed several times due to bad weather. They finally spent 15 days in the ISS and 17 days in orbit. No extra charge.

Larry Connor, head of a real estate company, Canadian Mark Batti, the owner of the investment firm, and Aidan Stebe, a former Israeli pilot who co-founded the investment fund, deny being considered “astronauts.”

They argue that they actually conducted a full series of experiments on the ISS in conjunction with research centers. This work focuses on senility and heart health.

They will spend the next few days in Orlando, where information about their health will be collected. The goal is to study the effect of space stay on the human body by comparing it with data collected before travel.

– New tasks coming soon –

Monday marks the fifth landing of the one-man Dragon capsule. SpaceX is now carrying NASA astronauts to ISS.

There are currently seven people at the station: three Americans and a crew member (a crew known as the Crew-3) who sailed on a German SpaceX ship, as well as three Russians aboard the Soyuz rocket.

The other four astronauts (three Americans and one Italian) are all set to join the crew in the coming days. Once the handover is complete, Crew-3 will return to Earth.

Elon Musk’s company also undertook another mission that was completely personal last year (Inspiration 4), but it did not make it to the space station, where the four passengers were in the capsule for three days.

Newcomers had already visited the ISS, especially in the 2000s, but they flew aboard the Soyuz with astronauts in the gym. Last year, Russia resumed this kind of voyage, and then sent a crew of a Japanese billionaire.

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NASA is clearly promoting this movement for its part to privatize low orbit. On the one hand, it wants to generate revenue through these private missions – the second, the Ax-2, is already approved and should take place within a year.

But above all, after the retirement of the ISS in 2030, NASA no longer wants to manage the operation of a space station and send the torch to private companies. The U.S. agency will hire its services to send its astronauts there so it can focus on distance exploration.

Axiom Space is one of the most advanced companies to position itself in this space: it wants to release the first volume from its own station in 2024.

This organization was first affiliated with the ISS, before gaining autonomy.

According to the leaders of Axiom Space, the accumulated experience thanks to Ax-1 marks an important first step aimed at laying the foundation for many more to come.