NASA’s first private mission to the International Space Station has come to a successful conclusion after the crew of four landed in a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule off the coast of Florida.
The four Ax-1 crew members – Canadian investor and philanthropist Mark Pathy, American entrepreneur Larry Connor, former Israeli Air Force pilot Eytan Stibbe, and former NASA astronaut Michael López-Alegría – landed in the Atlantic Ocean near Jacksonville, Fla. at 1:18:00 p.m. ET (10:06 p.m. PT) on Monday, April 25.
– Axiom Space (@Axiom_Space) April 25, 2022
The private astronauts were picked up by a recovery ship and taken back to shore before being helped out of the capsule. All are said to have been in good condition after their 17-day mission, which turned out to be seven days longer than originally planned after bad weather at the landing site delayed their return.
The video below shows the final minutes of the return journey with the parachutes deployed to slow the capsule’s descent.
“The success of this first private astronaut mission to the International Space Station is an important step in opening up opportunities for space travelers and achieving NASA’s goal of enabling off-planet commercial operations in low-Earth orbit,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson called in a release.
NASA’s first private mission to the ISS, organized by Texas-based Axiom Space and operated using SpaceX hardware, reportedly cost each participant about $55 million.
During their time aboard the orbiting outpost, the Ax-1 crew lived side-by-side with the station’s current team of professional astronauts, conducting a variety of scientific experiments, as well as public relations and commercial activities. Aboard the station, the Ax-1 crew answered questions about what it’s like to live and work 250 miles above the earth.
This wasn’t the first time non-professional astronauts had visited the space station, although it was the first time NASA had been involved. American Dennis Tito became the first private person to remain on board the ISS in 2001 after reportedly paying Roscosmos, NASA’s Russian antagonist, $20 million for a ride aboard its Soyuz spacecraft.
And late last year, a Japanese billionaire and his partner Roscosmos paid for a brief stay aboard the space station.
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