The first all-private team of astronauts ever launched to the International Space Station (ISS) started a weeklong mission, reaching a new milestone in commercial space travelling.
After a 21-hour flight starting from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, the SpaceX-launched Falcon 9 rocket successfully took the four-man team that were representing Axiom Space Inc, a Houston based startup which seeks to book rocket rides to the ISS, for anyone who can afford it.
Led by retired NASA astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria (63) the team is spending eight days in orbit. Larry Connor, a businessman and aviator was the mission pilot. Former Israeli fighter pilot Eytan Stibbe and Canadian businessman Mark Pathy served as mission specialists.
According to media reports, all four travelers paid $55 million apiece for the rocket ride and accommodations.
“It was a hell of a ride and we’re looking forward to the next 10 days,” said former NASA astronaut Lopez-Alegria.
After reaching the ISS aboard their SpaceX Crew Dragon, the Ax-1 team joined three Americans, three Russians and one German already in the ISS.
Space tourists have reached the ISS before but always aboard Russian Soyuz spacecraft. How and when Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic are going to answer this is already rising speculation.