SpaceX Brings Three Rich Businessmen to Space Station for $55M Each in First Private Mission | world news
SpaceX on Friday launched three businessmen into orbit in the first fully private mission to the International Space Station.
Accompanied by their astronaut escort, the men will spend more than a week in space NASA joins Russia to host guests in the world’s most expensive tourist destination.
Friday’s launch marks SpaceX’s first private charter flight to the orbiting lab, after two years of transporting astronauts there for NASA.
An American, Canadian and Israeli will arrive at the space station on Saturday after paying $55million (£42million) each for the rocket ride and accommodation, including all meals.
Organized by Houston-based company Axiom Space, the flight took off from Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 11:17 a.m. EST.
“That was one hell of a ride,” radioed crew member Michael López-Alegría, a retired NASA astronaut who now serves as Axiom Space’s vice president of business development, to mission controllers upon reaching orbit.
Visitor tickets include access to all but the Russian part of the space station, and three Americans and one German also live up there.
Russia has hosted tourists on the space station and before that on the Mir station for decades.
A Russian film crew was flown in last fall, followed by a Japanese fashion tycoon and his assistant.
Now, after years of resisting space station visitors, NASA is finally stepping in.
Mr. Lopez-Alegria said he wanted to avoid discussing politics and the war between Russia and Ukraine while on the space station.
He said: “I honestly think it won’t be embarrassing. I mean maybe a little”,
But he added that he expects the “collaborative spirit to shine through.”
The three paying customers are: Larry Connor of Dayton, Ohio, who runs the Connor Group; Mark Pathy, founder and CEO of Montreal’s Mavrik Corp; and Israel’s Eytan Stibbe, a former fighter pilot and founding partner of Vital Capital.
Mr. Stibbe expressed his excitement before launch and performed a little dance when he arrived at the rocket at Kennedy Space Center.
The businessmen are the last people to take advantage of the opening up of space to those who can afford it.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin rocket company is taking customers on 10-minute trips to the edge of space, while Virgin Galactic is expected to start flying customers on its rocket ship later this year.
Mr. Lopez-Alegria, who spent seven months on the space station 15 years ago, said SpaceX and NASA have been upfront with passengers about the risks of space travel.
“I think there’s no blurring about what the dangers are or what the bad days might be like,” he told The Associated Press before the flight.
Each visitor has a plethora of experiments to undertake during their stay — which is partly why they don’t like being called a space tourist.
“They’re not up there to glue their noses to the window,” said Michael Suffredini, co-founder and president of Axiom.
Friday’s launch marks the second private charter for Elon Musk’s SpaceX, which took a billionaire and his guests on a three-day orbit last year.
Axiom is targeting its second private flight to the space station next year. More client trips will follow, with Axiom adding dedicated spaces to the wraparound complex beginning in 2024.
The automated SpaceX capsule is scheduled to be back with the fours on April 19th.