SpaceX launch: Tourists have just gone to the ISS. Here’s everything you need to know

The spacecraft, which detached from the rocket after entering orbit, now flies freely in orbit and will spend all day on Friday, slowly maneuvering closer to the ISS, where it is scheduled to dock Saturday around 7:45 a.m. Eastern Time.

The trip was organized by startup Axiom Space from Houston, Texas, which seeks to book rocket flights, provide all necessary training and coordinate ISS flights for anyone who can afford it. All of this is in line with the goal of the U.S. government and the private sector to intensify business on the ISS and beyond.

On board this mission called AX-1 are Michael Lopez-Allegria, a former NASA astronaut who became an employee of Axiom, who runs the mission; Israeli businessman Eitan Stibbe; Canadian investor Mark Patty; and Ohio real estate mogul Larry Connor.

This is not the first time that clients or other non-astronauts have visited the ISS, as Russia has sold seats on its Soyuz spacecraft to various wealthy thrill seekers. in years past. But this is the first mission to include a crew made up entirely of private citizens without active members of government astronauts. This is also the first time that private citizens have traveled to the ISS on an American-made spacecraft.

Here’s everything you need to know.

How much did it all cost?

Earlier, Axiom announced a price of $ 55 million per seat for a 10-day trip to the ISS, but the company declined to comment on the financial conditions for this particular mission – except that last year’s press conference said the price was “tens of millions” .

The mission was made possible by very close coordination between Axiom, SpaceX and NASA, as the ISS is funded and managed by the government.

And the space agency has revealed some details on how much it will pay for the use of its 20-year orbital lab.

Food alone costs $ 2,000 a day per person in space. Delivery of products to and from the space station for a commercial crew costs another $ 88,000 to $ 164,000 per person per day. For each mission, the necessary support from NASA astronauts will cost commercial customers another $ 5.2 million, and all the support and mission planning provided by NASA will cost another $ 4.8 million.

Who flies?

Lopez-Allegria, a veteran of four space trips between 1995 and 2007 while working at NASA, manages this mission as an Axiom employee.
To learn more about the three paying customers he flies with, check out our report here.

Is it safe to go to the ISS, given the conflict with Russia?

Russia is a major partner of the United States on the ISS, and the space station has long been hailed as a symbol of post-Cold War cooperation.

However, US-Russian relations on the ground have deteriorated amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The United States and its allies have imposed severe sanctions on Russia, and the country has retaliated in many ways, including by refusing to sell Russian rocket engines to American companies. The head of the Russian space agency “Roscosmos” even spoke on social networks threatening to withdraw from the ISS agreement.

Despite all the noise, NASA has repeatedly sought to assure that behind the scenes NASA and its Russian counterparts are working together.

“NASA is aware of recent comments about the International Space Station. US sanctions and export controls continue to allow US-Russian civilian space cooperation on the space station,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson in a recent statement. “The professional relationship between our international partners, astronauts and astronauts continues for the safety and mission of all aboard the ISS.”

Are they astronauts or tourists?

This question now stands in the space flight community.

The U.S. government traditionally rewards the wings of an astronaut to anyone who approaches more than 50 miles above the Earth’s surface. But the astronaut’s commercial wings – a relatively new designation issued by the Federal Aviation Administration – may not be so liberal.

Last year, the FAA decided to complete the entire Commercial Space Astronaut Wings program from January 1, 2022. Now the FAA plans to simply list the names of everyone who flies above the 50-mile threshold on the website.
First on CNN: The US gives Bezas, Branson and Shatner the wings of astronauts

Whether it is fair to continue to call people who pay for their journey into space “astronauts” is an open question, and countless observers, including NASA astronauts, have weighed.

Not everyone cares about slicing words.
“If you tie your example to a rocket, I think it’s worth something,” former NASA astronaut Terry Wirth told National Geographic when asked about the problem. “When I was an F-16 pilot, I wasn’t jealous because Cessna pilots are called pilots. I think everyone will know whether you paid to be a passenger in a five-minute suborbital flight, or whether you are the commander of an interplanetary spacecraft. These are two different things. “

If you ask the AX-1 crew, they don’t like to be called “tourists”.

“This mission is very different from what you may have heard on some of the recent – especially suborbital – missions. We are not space tourists,” Lopez-Allegria told reporters earlier this month, referring to short supersonic flights. committed by Jeff. Bezosa Blue Origin Company. “I think space tourism plays an important role, but that’s not what Axiom is about.”

The crew has indeed undergone extensive training for this mission, taking on almost the same tasks as the professional astronauts being trained. But the fact is that the three payment customers of this flight – Steeb, Patti and Connor – were not selected from thousands of applicants and do not dedicate most of their lives to this cause.

Axiom herself has been more frivolous about word usage in the past.

“Human commercial flight into space. Space tourism. Whatever you call it – it’s happening. And soon,” the company wrote on its website.

What will they do in space?

Each of the crew members has a list of research projects they plan to work on.

Connor will conduct some research on how space flight affects aging cells that have stopped the normal process of replication and are “linked to many age-related diseases,” Axiom reports. This study will be conducted in partnership with the Mayo Clinic and the Cleveland Clinic.

Among the items on Patty’s to-do list are some additional medical research more focused on children’s health, which he will conduct in partnership with several Canadian hospitals, as well as some conservation awareness initiatives.

Stibbe will also conduct some research and focus on “educational and artistic activities to connect the younger generation in Israel and around the world,” Axiom reports. Stibbe flies on behalf of the Ramon Foundation, a nonprofit space education organization named after Israel’s first astronaut, Ilan Ramon, who died in the 2003 Columbia shuttle crash. Stibb’s biography “Axiom” states that there was a “close” friendship between Ramon and Ramon. .

During downtime the crew will also be able to enjoy the vast views of the Earth. And at some point they will go with other astronauts on board. Their food was prepared in partnership with the famous chef and philanthropist Jose Andres. Their dishes “rely on the flavors and traditional dishes of native Spain Commander Lopez-Allegri,” reports Axiom.

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