SpaceX All-Private Astronaut Mission successfully squirts down after a week’s delays – CBS Tampa

BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. (CW44 News At 10 | CNN) – The first completely private mission to the International Space Station finally returned home, made a splash and landed off the coast of Florida, completing a mission that lasted a week longer than expected.

This mission was mediated by the Houston, Texas-based startup Axiom Space. The company books rocket rides, provides all the necessary training and coordinates flights to the ISS for anyone who can afford it – and it hopes this is the first mission of many more to come. There were four crew members on this flight – Michael López-Alegría, a former NASA astronaut who became an Axiom employee leading the mission; and three paying customers: Israeli businessman Eytan Stibbe; the Canadian investor Mark Pathy; and Ohio-based real estate tycoon Larry Connor.

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Splash down-return is considered the most dangerous stretch of the mission. The Crew Dragon capsule traveled at more than 17,000 miles per hour, and as it began the last part of its descent, the exterior of the Crew Dragon capsule was heated to about 3,500 degrees Fahrenheit as it cut back into the thickest part of the Earth’s atmosphere. Inside the spacecraft’s cabin, the passengers were protected by a heat shield, and the temperature should have stayed below 85 degrees Fahrenheit.

Crew Dragon then exposed sets of parachutes as it plunged toward the Atlantic Ocean. Rescue crews waiting near the splash-down site towed the spacecraft out of the sea and on to a special boat called “Dragon’s nest”, where the final security check took place before the crew went ashore.

The AX-1, launched on April 8, was originally billed as a 10-day mission, but eventually extended to about 17 days, of which 15 were spent on the ISS.

During their first days at the space station, the group adhered to a regimental schedule, which included about 14 hours of activities a day, including scientific research that was designed by various research hospitals, universities, technology companies and more. They also spent time making outreach events by holding video conferences with children and students.

The weather delays then gave them “a little more time to absorb the remarkable views of the blue planet and review the enormous amount of work successfully completed during the mission,” according to Axiom.

It is not clear how much this mission cost. Axiom previously revealed a price of $ 55 million per. seat for a 10-day trip to the ISS, but the company declined to comment on the financial terms of this specific mission other than saying at a news conference last year that the price is in the “tens” of millions. “

The mission has been made possible by very close coordination between Axiom, SpaceX and NASA, as the ISS is state-funded and operated. And the space agency has revealed some details about how much it charges for the use of its 20-year-old orbital laboratory.

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For each mission, bringing the necessary support from NASA astronauts will cost commercial customers $ 5.2 million, and all the mission support and planning that NASA borrows is an additional $ 4.8 million. While in space, food alone costs an estimated $ 2,000 per person. day per person. Getting supplies to and from the space station for a commercial crew is an additional $ 88,000 to $ 164,000 per person, per day.

But the extra days the AX-1 crew spent in space due to the weather will not add to their own personal total cost, according to a statement from NASA.

“Knowing that targets for the International Space Station’s mission, such as the recent Russian spaceflight or weather challenges, could result in a delayed docking, NASA negotiated the contract with a strategy that does not require compensation for further delays,” the statement said.

AX-1 did not mark the first time paying customers or otherwise non-astronauts visited the ISS, as Russia has sold seats on its Soyuz spacecraft to various wealthy thrill seekers in previous years.

But the AX-1 was the first to join a crew consisting exclusively of private citizens without active members of a government astronaut corps accompanying them in the capsule during the trip to and from the ISS. It is also the first time private citizens have traveled to the ISS on an American-made spacecraft.

The mission has sparked yet another round of debate over whether people who pay their way to space should be referred to as “astronauts”, though it should be noted that a trip to the ISS requires a far greater investment of both time and money than to take a short suborbital ride on a rocket built by companies like Blue Origin or Virgin Galactic.

López-Alegría, a veteran of four trips to space between 1995 and 2007 during his time with NASA, had this to say about it: “This mission is very different from what you may have heard in some of the recent – especially suborbital – missions. We are not space tourists. I think there is an important role for space tourism, but that’s not what Axiom is about. “

Although paying customers will not receive astronauts from the US government, they were presented with the “Universal Astronaut Insignia” – a gold pin recently designed by the Association of Space Explorers, an international group of 38 astronauts from 38 countries. López-Alegría handed Stibbe, Pathy and Connor their needles during a welcome ceremony after the group arrived at the space station.

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