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"Dragon" capsule after landing in the Gulf of Mexico

Photo: Saudi Press Agency / dpa

The crew of the second completely private mission to the International Space Station is back on Earth after about ten days on board the ISS.

For the first time, a man and a woman from Saudi Arabia were also present: Astronaut Rayyanah Barnawi and her colleague Ali Alqarni, together with former NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson and ex-racing driver John Shoffner, landed in the sea off the US state of Florida on Wednesday night with a "Dragon" capsule from the private space company SpaceX. According to media reports, the passengers had each paid around 50 million euros for the trip.

The passengers seem satisfied after their return. "We'll hopefully come back with more experiments," Alquarni tweeted as he bid farewell.

On board the ISS, the crew, which took off from the Cape Canaveral spaceport about ten days ago, had carried out scientific experiments, among other things. The trip was organized by the private space company Axiom Space, in collaboration with NASA and SpaceX – the company of tech billionaire Elon Musk.

Founded in 2016 in Houston, Texas by former NASA manager Michael Suffredini and Iranian-American businessman Kam Ghaffarian, Axiom Space sees itself as a future major player in the space market. It is planning its own commercial space station and has already been commissioned by NASA to build a commercial ISS module.

In April 2022, "Axiom-1" was the first completely private mission to the ISS. At that time, the Spanish-American astronaut Michael López-Alegría, the US entrepreneur Larry Connor, the Israeli entrepreneur Eytan Stibbe and the Canadian investor Mark Pathy flew to the ISS. There had already been several individual space tourists on the ISS, but the "Axiom-1" mission was the first completely private crew.

Building space tourism is one of the big goals of some companies, Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos want to make space travel possible for everyone. This could even be possible faster than many think, physicist Ulrich Walter told SPIEGEL.