• The four mission members landed at 1:06 p.m. Monday off the coast of Florida aboard a vessel from , after spending more than two weeks in the .

  • This mission was the first entirely private to visit the International Space Station.

    It was made up of Larry Connor, Eytan Stibbe and Mark Pathy, three clients who had paid tens of millions of dollars each, and former Hispanic-American astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria.

  • They had taken off on April 8 from Florida.

    They had arrived on the ISS the next day, where they were originally supposed to spend only eight days.

    But their return had to be postponed several times due to bad weather conditions.

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 touched down in the Atlantic Ocean at 1:06 p.m. local time (5:06 p.m. GMT).

Its vertiginous descent was slowed down by its entry into the atmosphere, then by huge parachutes.

The @SpaceX Dragon Endeavor undocked from the station at 9:10pm ET today to return four @Axiom_Space astronauts to Earth on Monday.

https://t.co/Of44cA1hxq

— International Space Station (@Space_Station) April 25, 2022


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“To everyone who supported us around the world, you did an incredible job, it was an incredible mission,” said American Larry Connor, one of the passengers, from the capsule still tossed by the sea. The craft was then hoisted aboard a SpaceX ship.

The four passengers got out one by one, their step unsteady because of the time needed to reacclimate to gravity.

The first completely private mission

Named Ax-1, this mission was the first fully private mission to the International Space Station (ISS).

The American company Axiom Space bought the means of transport from SpaceX, and paid NASA for the use of its station.

“Many were scrutinizing this mission just to see if it was practical,” Derek Hassmann, chief operating officer for Axiom Space, told a press conference.

“Can you train them in a short time?

Prepare them for a mission that has minimal impact on the ISS crew?

I think we have proven that it is possible.

»

The four men - three clients who paid tens of millions of dollars each, and former Hispanic-American astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria - took off on April 8 from Florida.

They had arrived on the ISS the next day, where they were originally supposed to spend only eight days.

But their return had to be postponed several times due to bad weather conditions.

They thus finally spent 15 days in the ISS, and 17 in orbit.

No additional cost was charged.

Studying the effects on the body of stays in space

Larry Connor, head of a real estate company, Canadian Mark Pathy, boss of an investment company, and ex-Israeli pilot Eytan Stibbe, co-founder of an investment fund, refuse to be considered as "space tourists".

They have indeed carried out, they argue, a whole series of experiments on board the ISS, in partnership with research centers.

This work has focused on aging and heart health.

They will also spend the next few days in Orlando, where data on their state of health will be collected.

The goal is to study the effect of space stays on the human body, by comparing them to the data collected before their trip.

New missions to come

Monday was the fifth landing of a manned Dragon capsule.

SpaceX now regularly transports NASA astronauts to the ISS.

Seven people currently remain on board the Station: three Americans and a German who came thanks to a SpaceX ship (a crew called Crew-3), as well as three Russians who traveled on board a Soyuz rocket.

All are to be joined in the coming days by four other astronauts (three Americans and one Italian), Crew-4.

Once the handover has been completed, Crew-3 will in turn descend back to Earth.

Elon Musk's company also carried out another entirely private mission last year (Inspiration4), but this one did not go to the Space Station, the four passengers simply remained in the capsule for three days .

Novices had already visited the ISS, especially in the 2000s. But they flew aboard the Soyuz, accompanied by cosmonauts in exercise.

Last year, Russia resumed this type of travel, sending a film crew, then a Japanese billionaire.

A new mission in about a year

NASA for its part clearly encourages this movement to privatize low orbit.

On the one hand, she wants to generate income through these private missions.

A second, Ax-2, has already been approved and should take place in about a year.

But above all, after the retirement of the ISS around 2030, NASA no longer wants to have to manage the operation of a space station itself, and pass the torch to private companies.

The American agency would then simply hire its services to send its astronauts there, and could thus concentrate on distant exploration.

Axiom Space is one of the most advanced companies to position itself in this niche: it wants to launch the first module from its own station in 2024. The structure will first be attached to the ISS, before taking its autonomy to ensure the relay.

The experience accumulated thanks to Ax-1 thus represented a crucial first step, according to the leaders of Axiom Space, intended to lay the groundwork for the many missions to come.

Science

The four members of a private mission about to leave the ISS

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  • ISS

  • Nasa

  • Space

  • Science

  • SpaceX

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