The International Space Station is a place where astronauts, cosmonauts stay. But recently, some tourists are set to greet a new crew—private astronauts.
Four civilians are gearing up to lift off on a SpaceX Falcon-9 rocket on Friday.They have the distinction of being the first private astronauts to live and work on the Space Station. NASA has been promoting the commercialisation of the flying laboratory.
The first private astronaut mission, Axiom Space-1 (Ax-1), will launch at 11:17 a.m. EDT from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida with four astronauts from three different countries, commanded by a former Nasa astronaut. Astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria will command the SpaceX Dragon Endeavour as it leaves for the flying outpost with Pilot Larry Connor and Mission Specialists Eytan Stibbe and Mark Pathy.
The AX-1 mission will dock with the Harmony module’s space-facing port a day later in microgravity. The launch was initially scheduled for Wednesday. An Axiom spokesperson said that the delay would give SpaceX more time to complete pre-launch processing work.
Names of the first private astronauts
Lopez-Alegria, Axiom’s vice president of business development, is the Spanish-born mission commander and Axiom’s vice president of business development. He is set to be joined by Larry Connor, a real estate and technology entrepreneur and aerobatic aviator from Ohio designated as the mission pilot. Connor is in his 70s, but the company did not provide his exact age.
Rounding out the Ax-1 team is investor-philanthropist and former Israeli fighter pilot Eytan Stibbe. He is 64. Mark Pathy, aged 52, is a Canadian businessman and philanthropist, both serving as mission specialists.
Stibbe will be the second Israeli in space. The first was Ilan Ramon, who died with six NASA crewmates in the 2003 space shuttle Columbia disaster.
While the four astronauts have various backgrounds from three countries, all are healthy and wealthy, similar to the millionaire club that has been flying on suborbital flights with Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic. However, commander Lopez-Alegria made it clear, “We are not space tourists.”
When the four astronauts reach the Space Station.They will have to be busy with their research work. Astronauts need to work on chronic pain and sleep disturbances in space, including Spaceflight-Associated Neuro-Ocular Syndrome (SANS), which manifests as changes in visual acuity experienced by many astronauts on long-duration space flights.
“The aim for the Ax-1 crew is to set a standard for all future private astronaut missions in terms of our preparation and professionalism,” López-Alegría said. The Ax-1 team will be carrying equipment and supplies for 26 science and technology experiments to be conducted before they are slated to leave orbit and return to Earth 10 days after launch.
While the space station has hosted visits by civilian visitors from time to time, the Ax-1 mission will mark the first all-commercial team of astronauts to use the ISS for its intended purpose as an orbiting laboratory. They will be sharing the weightless workspace alongside seven regular crew members of the ISS—three U.S. astronauts, a German astronaut, and three Russian cosmonauts.