SpaceX launches 3 visitors to space station for $55M each

SpaceX has brought three wealthy businessmen and their astronaut escort to the International Space Station for a stay of more than a week.

SpaceX has brought three wealthy businessmen and their astronaut escort to the International Space Station for a stay of more than a week.

SpaceX on Friday launched three wealthy businessmen and their astronaut escorts to the International Space Station for a stay of more than a week, while NASA and Russia host guests at the world’s most expensive tourist destination.

It’s SpaceX’s first private charter flight to the orbiting lab after two years of transporting astronauts there for NASA.

Arriving at the space station Saturday will be an American, a Canadian and an Israeli who run investment, real estate and other businesses. They pay $55 million each for the rocket flight and accommodation, all meals included.

Russia has been receiving tourists in the space station – and before that, the Mir station for decades. Last fall, a Russian film crew flew over, followed by a Japanese fashion magnate and his assistant.

NASA finally springs into action, after years of resisting visitors to the space station.

“It was an amazing ride,” said former NASA astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria, the chaperone, upon reaching orbit.

The visitor tickets include access to all but the Russian part of the space station – they need permission from the three cosmonauts on board. There are also three Americans and a German living above it.

Lopez-Alegria plans not to talk about politics and the war in Ukraine while on the space station.

“I honestly don’t think it will be awkward. I mean maybe a little bit,” he said. He expects the “spirit of collaboration to shine through”.

The privately owned Axiom Space company arranged the visit with NASA for its three paying clients: Larry Connor of Dayton, Ohio, who heads the Connor Group; Mark Pathy, Founder and CEO of Mavrik Corp. in Montréal; and Israeli Eytan Stibbe, a former fighter pilot and co-founder of Vital Capital.

Before the launch, their enthusiasm was clear: Stibbe did a little dance when he arrived at the rocket at Kennedy Space Center.

SpaceX and NASA were candid with them about the risks of spaceflight, said Lopez-Alegria, who spent seven months on the space station 15 years ago.

“There’s no ambiguity, I think, about what the dangers are or what the bad days might look like,” Lopez-Alegria told The Associated Press before the flight.

Each visitor has a slew of experiments to conduct during their nine to 10 days there, one reason they don’t like being called space tourists.

“They’re not there to stick their noses to the window,” said Michael Suffredini, the co-founder and president of Axiom, a former NASA space station program manager.

The three businessmen are the last to take advantage of the opening of the space for those with deep pockets. Jeff Bezos’ rocket company Blue Origin is taking customers on a 10-minute ride to the edge of space, while Virgin Galactic expects to start flying customers on its rocketship later this year.

Friday’s flight is the second private charter for Elon Musk’s SpaceX, which last year took a billionaire and his guests on a three-day circumnavigation of the Earth.

Axiom is aiming for its second private flight to the space station next year. More customer journeys will follow, with Axiom adding its own rooms to the orbital complex from 2024. After about five years, the company plans to detach its compartments to form a self-sustaining station — one of several commercial outposts intended to replace the space station once it is retired and NASA goes to the moon. shifts.

On an adjacent path during Friday’s launch: NASA’s new moon rocket, waiting to complete a dress rehearsal for a summer test flight.

As gifts to their seven station hosts, the four visitors pick up paella and other Spanish dishes prepared by renowned chef José Andrés. The rest of their time on the station will have to do NASA’s freeze-dried feed.

The automated SpaceX capsule will return with the four on April 19.

Honoring Ohio’s air and space heritage, Connor picks up a fabric sample from the Wright Brothers’ 1903 Kitty Hawk flyer and gold foil from the Apollo 11 command module at the Neil Armstrong Air and Space Museum in Wapakoneta.

Only the second Israeli in space, Stibbe, will continue a thunderstorm experiment started by the first — Ilan Ramon, who died aboard shuttle Columbia in 2003. They were on the same fighter-pilot squadron.

Stibbe carries with him copies of recovered pages from Ramon’s space diary, as well as a song composed by Ramon’s musician son and a painting of pages falling from the sky by his daughter.

“Being part of this unique crew is proof to me that no dream is out of reach,” he said.


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