January 26th- Axiom Space has announced it’s first completely private orbital space mission to the ISS (International Space Station). The company is finalizing the deal with NASA but expects to launch two missions a year to the International Space Station starting as soon as January 2022 depending on the activities taking place aboard the space station at the time. Axiom is also developing a space station of their own to give their paying customers a little more luxury in orbit that the ISS provides. If all goes according to plan this deal would mark a major moment in human space flight, a deal that according to Axiom will make space flight more accessible and further erode the monopoly that governments have long held on space travel.
That being a big statement in itself being that each person planning to fly will be shelling out 55 million dollars for the roughly ten day trip, eight of which will be at the ISS. As it was announced Tuesday the first mission will include the second oldest person to launch into space, the second Israeli ever to enter space, the eleventh Canadian, and the first former NASA astronaut to return to the International Space Station. SpaceX will of course be the launch provider for the mission as the four men will use the Dragon Capsule as their method of leaving and returning to Earth on the Axiom Mission or Ax-1 it’s dubbed.
The three men paying for this expedition are all extremely wealthy with Larry Connor being the managing partner of the Connor Group, a real estate investment firm based out of Ohio. At 70yrs old Connor will be the second oldest person to ever fly into space, the first being John Glenn, when he flew at age 77. Mark Pathy is the chief executive of Mavrik Corp, a Canadian invest firm, the eleventh Canadian to enter orbit, and also the cofounder of Cirque Du Soleil. Eytan Stibbe a businessman and former Israeli Air Force fighter pilot will be the third member of the mission and a good friend of Ilan Ramon who was on board Space Shuttle Columbia the day it met its tragic end. Their fourth compatriot, Michael Lopez-Alegria who is a former NASA astronaut and now VP of Axiom Space will serve as their commander during the mission duration. He has four flights to space under his belt and almost 260 combined hours in zero-g. These men will be the first private citizens to pay for a ride to orbit from US soil, but not the first ever. Several wealthy citizens have flown to the space station before aboard the Russian Soyuz space craft because NASA forbade the operations from our soil. In 2019 NASA reversed its stance saying the missions will help boost a growing commercial space industry and help NASA’s bottom line. NASA did have the dream of flying private citizens to space long ago. At the beginning of the shuttle program it planned to offer seats to private citizens and started a “Spaceflight Participant” program. A few members of Congress got the chance to fly first, followed by a teacher. Christa McAuliffe, a history teacher in Concord New Hampshire. When her flight on board the Space Shuttle Challenger ended in disaster with her and all fellow crew members were killed, NASA decided to end program stating it was too risky for ordinary citizens.