NASA’s first private mission to the International Space Station has ended successfully after the crew of four crash-landed in a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule off the coast of Florida.
The four crew members of the Axe-1 – Canadian investor and philanthropist Mark Pathy, American entrepreneur Larry Connor, former Israeli Air Force pilot Eytan Stibbe and former astronaut from NASA Michael López-Alegría – descended into the Atlantic Ocean near Jacksonville, Florida at 1:00 a.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 brought back to earth before being helped out of the capsule. All are said to be 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 trip 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 realizing NASA’s goal of enabling off-planet commercial activities. in low Earth orbit,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in a statement. .
Organized by Texas-based Axiom Space and using SpaceX hardware, NASA’s first private mission to the ISS would have cost each participant around $55 million.
While aboard the orbiting outpost, the AX-1 crew lived alongside the station’s current team of professional astronauts, conducting a series of science experiments, as well as outreach and marketing activities. Aboard the station, the Ax-1 crew answered questions about what it was like to live and work 250 miles above Earth.
It was not 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 citizen to stay aboard the ISS in 2001 after paying NASA’s Russian counterpart Roscosmos $20 million for a trip aboard its Soyuz spacecraft.
And late last year, a Japanese billionaire businessman and his associate paid Roscosmos for a short stay aboard the space station.