SpaceX launch: Here’s who’s onboard the first all-private ISS space tourism mission

The passengers on this trip, which includes former NASA astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegría, who will command the mission as an Axiom employee, and three paying customers, are scheduled to take off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Friday at 11:17 a.m. am ET. They will travel inside a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule, the same capsule that SpaceX has used to take NASA astronauts to the ISS. The capsule travels into orbit atop one of SpaceX’s 230-foot-tall Falcon 9 rockets.

This mission, called AX-1, will mark the first time in history that private citizens, or non-professional astronauts, will launch to the ISS from US soil. And it’s the first of what Axiom, the company that arranged and negotiated this mission with SpaceX, hopes will be many similar flights for anyone who can afford it.

The AX-1 mission is also only the second space tourism flight for SpaceX, following the September 2021 launch of four private citizens on a three-day free-flight journey through orbit that traveled even higher than the ISS. .

During their eight-day stay on the space station, the AX-1 crew will conduct some science experiments, break bread with professional astronauts already aboard the football-field-sized space station, and enjoy Panoramic views of our home planet moving rapidly down. below.

Who is on this mission?

López-Alegría, 63, made four trips to space between 1995 and 2007 during his time with NASA. He left the space agency in 2012 and joined Axiom a few years later with the goal of returning to space, but as a private astronaut rather than an official member of the corps.

Axiom serves as a middleman between paying customers who want to take a multimillion-dollar thrill ride into space, booking flights with SpaceX, handling negotiations with NASA, and taking care of training potential space travelers. Axiom expects these flights to take place regularly, as NASA agreed a few years ago to open up the ISS to space tourism and other commercial ventures.

It’s unclear how much these trips cost the customer. Although previously revealed prices indicated that a trip to the ISS costs $55 million per seat, Axiom declined to confirm that figure this week. “Axiom Space does not disclose financial terms,” ​​Bettina Inclan, a spokeswoman for Axiom, told CNN Business via email.)

There are three paying customers on this flight. They are all wealthy white men, continuing a trend that plagues the commercial spaceflight industry and its inaccessibility to more diverse sectors of the population. The vast majority of people who have so far been able to pay for their trip to space, whether on SpaceX flights or suborbital missions like those offered by Blue Origin, have been white businessmen. It is indicative of how far from reality the promised distant space dream is coming from entrepreneurs who claim that space is “for everyone” and that commercializing space will “democratize” it amid growing income inequality. With such exuberant price points, the space will remain commercially accessible to only an elite for the foreseeable future. Although the goal is to eventually dramatically reduce the cost of getting to space, in hopes of making ticket prices affordable for more people, it’s unclear how or when that will happen.

Real estate mogul Larry Connor

Larry Connor.

Larry Connor, 72, is a real estate mogul from Dayton, Ohio. He founded The Connor Group, which has developments in 16 markets across the country and has more than $3.5 billion in assets, according to the company’s website. He is an avid adventurer, he has raced cars and climbed mountains.

He also has experience as a private pilot and has participated in aerobatic competitions, and will be the designated pilot for this mission. (It should be noted that SpaceX’s Crew Dragon is completely autonomous, though spaceflight pilots train to be prepared to take over if something goes wrong.)

“My journey really started seven or eight years ago. I’ve always been interested in space and started thinking about it after reading about an American who went to Russia and traveled on the Soyuz. [spacecraft]he said in an interview with the Dayton Natural History Society last year, after his plans to fly the AX-1 were revealed.

Connor was likely referring to one of the American citizens who booked a flight to the ISS through Space Adventures, a company that has reserved seats aboard the Russian Soyuz spacecraft for tourists since the early 2000s. Flights have always been coordinated with the Russian space agency and included official Russian astronauts. The AX-1 mission will be the first to include a crew made up entirely of private astronauts.

Connor said he decided to save the mission for “the challenge.”

“We’re going to truly train to the standards of professional astronauts,” he said.

Former CEO of Shipping, Mark Pathy

Pathy brand.

Mark Pathy, 52, is the founder and CEO of Canadian family office and investment firm Mavrik Corp. Its website states that Mavrik has a “particular focus on innovation, entrepreneurship and responsible investing,” though not many of their investment decisions are public. .

CB Insights, which tracks private investments, lists only one known investment. He backed a Canadian startup called Ferme d’hiver, which he says “offers AI-powered farm automation tools.”
Pathy is also the former CEO of a shipping company, Fednav, which is a family business of Pathy.
Of the AX-1 mission, Pathy told CTV News, “It’s a lot of money. I feel very lucky to be able to afford this kind of trip. Obviously, not a lot of people can do it. But at the same time, I don’t have to, luckily, choose between doing something like that or being philanthropically active.

He added that “it’s been a dream since I was a little boy and saw Captain Kirk bouncing around the universe on the Enterprise” to go into space.

Eytan Stibbe

Eytan Stibbe.

Eytan Stibbe, 64, is an Israeli businessman.

According to his Axiom bio, Stibbe, a former Israeli Air Force fighter pilot, founded Vital Capital a decade ago. His website indicates that the company invests in companies involved in sectors such as food and health care in developing areas, especially Africa, for “high-return opportunities.”

Axiom says Stibbe’s trip is happening “in collaboration” with the Ramon Foundation, a space education nonprofit named for Israel’s first astronaut, Ilan Ramon, who died in the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster in Israel. 2003. Stibbe’s biography in Axiom also says that he and Ramon shared a “close” friendship. Stibbe will be only the second Israeli to go into space.

He announced his decision to join the AX-1 crew at a ceremony at the Israeli president’s residence in 2020, drawing criticism from the Israeli press, which pointed to Stibbe’s alleged past dealings, particularly related to drug smuggling allegations. Military equipment. During his time with LR Group, an investment and development group, which he left in 2011, according to a Stibbe representative.

Specifically, reports allege that Stibbe was involved in the sale of military aircraft in Angola, which was embroiled in a brutal civil war from the 1970s to 2002.

The accusations date back to reports by the Israeli news site Haaretz.

In a 2012 television interview, conducted in Hebrew and translated by the Israeli media and CNN Business, Stibbe also appeared to confirm his involvement.

“We helped Angola to end the war by bringing them interceptor planes, two Su-27 fighter jets, from Uzbekistan,” he said. “His presence in the country stopped flights supplying weapons, food and ammunition and the export of illegal diamonds from Angola. After a year or a year and a half, the war ended.”

A statement shared with CNN Business on Stibbe’s behalf states that “LR Group’s business in Angola was almost exclusively concerned with agricultural infrastructure, vocational training, water, airports and telecommunications.”

It adds that LR Group “received a request from the [US-backed Angolan] government to help upgrade its airspace infrastructure to ICAO international standards,” and that the aircraft sales were made “with export licenses and were completely legal.”

“Furthermore, the aircraft and air traffic control radars were used for deterrence purposes only,” the statement read.

LR Group responded in a statement to CNN Business, saying that “LR Group has been involved in the fields of health, telecommunications, food, agriculture, renewable energy and water, with the aim of developing independence and economic and social well-being of the local inhabitants”. populations around the world”.

“During the time that Stibbe was a partner in the company, he was the partner responsible for the operation and financing of the company’s commercial activity in Angola,” the statement read. “After separating from the company, he bought the activity in Angola in 2012 and continued to operate there.”

LR Group is currently involved in a legal dispute related to allegations against Stibbe dating back to when he was a partner in the company.

Stibbe’s representatives declined to comment on the legal battle.

Regarding his decision to go to space, Stibbe said that “as a child on dark nights, I used to look at the stars and wait patiently to see a shooting star, and I wondered: What lies beyond what the eyes see? ?”. he said he in comments translated by i24NEWS.

With its release scheduled for this week, Stibbe will soon find out.

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