The mission launched Friday morning from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. And the spacecraft, which separated from the rocket after reaching orbit, spent about 20 hours free through orbit as it maneuvered closer to the ISS.
Aboard this mission, dubbed AX-1, is Michael Lopez-Alegría, a former NASA astronaut turned Axiom employee and leading the mission; Israeli businessman Eytan Stibbe; Canadian investor Mark Pathy; and Ohio-based real estate mogul Larry Connor.
After reaching the ISS aboard their SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft, they joined seven professional astronauts already aboard the space station — including three NASA astronauts, a German astronaut and three Russian cosmonauts.
Here’s everything you need to know.
How much did all this cost?
The mission is made possible by very close coordination between Axiom, SpaceX and NASA, as the ISS is funded and operated by the government.
Food alone costs $2,000 per day, per person, in space. Getting amenities to and from the space station for a commercial crew costs another $88,000 to $164,000 per person, per day. For each mission, getting the necessary support from NASA astronauts costs commercial customers another $5.2 million, and all the mission support and planning that NASA borrows is another $4.8 million.
Who is flying?
Is it safe to go to the ISS given the conflict in Russia?
Russia is the United States’ main partner in the ISS, and the space station has long been hailed as a symbol of post-Cold War cooperation.
Despite all the fuss, NASA has repeatedly tried to reassure that NASA and its Russian counterparts are working seamlessly behind the scenes.
“NASA is aware of recent comments regarding the International Space Station. US sanctions and export control measures continue to facilitate US-Russia civil cooperation on the space station,” NASA administrator Bill Nelson said in a recent statement. “The professional relationship between our international partners, astronauts and cosmonauts continues for the safety and mission of everyone aboard the ISS.”
Are they astronauts or tourists?
This is a question that currently lives in the space community.
The United States government has traditionally awarded astronaut wings to anyone traveling more than 50 miles (80 km) above the Earth’s surface. But commercial astronaut wings — a relatively new designation given out by the Federal Aviation Administration — may not be given out as liberally.
Whether it’s fair to still refer to people who pay their way into space as “astronauts” is an open question, and numerous observers — including NASA astronauts — have expressed their views.
If you ask the AX-1 crew, they don’t like being called “tourists.”
“This mission is very different from what you may have heard in some of the recent – especially suborbital – missions. We are not space tourists,” Lopez-Alegría told reporters earlier this month, referring to the short supersonic flights performed by Jeff . Bezos’ company Blue Origin. “I think there’s an important role for space tourism, but that’s not what Axiom is about.”
The crew has undergone extensive training for this mission and has taken on many of the same duties as professional astronauts in training. But the fact is, the three paying customers on this flight — Stibbe, Pathy, and Connor — weren’t selected from a pool of thousands of applicants and don’t spend much of their lives pursuing the endeavor.
Axiom itself has been more flippant about word usage in the past.
What will they do when they are in space?
Each of the crew members has a list of research projects they want to work on.
Connor will do some research on how spaceflight affects senescent cells, which are cells that have halted the normal replication process and are “linked to multiple age-related diseases,” Axiom said. That research will be done in collaboration with the Mayo Clinic and Cleveland Clinic.
Among the items on Pathy’s to-do list is some additional medical research, more focused on children’s health, which he will be conducting in collaboration with several Canadian hospitals, and some conservation initiatives.
Stibbe will also do some research and focus on “educational and artistic activities to connect the younger generation in Israel and the rest of the world,” Axiom said. Stibbe flies on behalf of the Ramon Foundation — a non-profit space education organization named after Israel’s first astronaut, Ilan Ramon, who died in the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster in 2003. Stibbes Axiom-bio says he and Ramon have an “intimate ” shared friendship .
During downtime, the crew also gets the chance to enjoy expansive views of the Earth. And at some point they will share a meal with the other astronauts on board. Their food was prepared in collaboration with renowned chef and philanthropist Jose Andrés. Their meals “lean on flavors and traditional dishes from Commander López-Alegría’s native Spain,” Axiom said.