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4 private astronauts blast off from Florida on milestone mission to International Space Station

The crew of Axiom Mission 1 will spend 8 days at the International Space Station, the first all-private crew to travel to the orbiting lab. Photo: SpaceX
The crew of Axiom Mission 1 will spend 8 days at the International Space Station, the first all-private crew to travel to the orbiting lab. Photo: SpaceX

A crew of four is on its way to the International Space Station after launching from Kennedy Space Center in Florida on the first all-private space mission to the station.

The crew blasted off atop SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, making the trip in the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft. The mission, called Axiom Mission 1, was organized by Houston-based company Axiom, with cooperation from NASA.

It’s the first mission made up of all civilian space travelers, although mission commander and Axiom Vice President Michael López-Alegría is a retired NASA astronaut and has traveled to the station before. The other three participants Larry Connor, Mark Pathy, and Eytan Stibbe paid for seats on the mission, estimated at over $50 million each.

“What a historic launch,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “Thank you to the dedicated teams at NASA who have worked tirelessly to make this mission a reality.”

The crew will spend eight days on the ISS, conducting science experiments and public outreach from orbit. Axiom says the crew will conduct more than 20 health and science experiments, spending over 70% of their time working on science.

The capsule has already completed two successful NASA missions to the station. For this trip, it will take about 20 hours to arrive at the ISS, with a docking scheduled for Saturday morning. The hatch will open around 9:30 a.m. ET where the crew will meet the seven already on board the station.

“We will usher in a new era in private human spaceflight when they cross the threshold to enter the International Space Station,” said Axiom Space CEO Mike Suffredini.

After their stay, the crew of four will return to Earth in the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule, splashing down off the coast of Florida.
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