SpaceX launches 3 visitors to space station for $55M each

SpaceX has sent three wealthy businessmen and an astronaut escort to the International Space Station for a stay of more than a week.
On Friday, SpaceX flew three wealthy businessmen and their astronaut escort to the International Space Station for a stay of more than a week, joining Russia in welcoming visitors at the world’s most costly tourist attraction.

After two years of transporting humans to the orbiting lab for NASA, this is SpaceX’s first private charter mission there.

Arrival at the International Space Station On Saturday, there will be an American, a Canadian, and an Israeli who operate investing, real estate, and other businesses. They’re paying $55 million each for the rocket ride and accommodations, which include all meals.

For decades, Russia has hosted tourists at the space station — and before that, the Mir station. A Russian film crew arrived last fall, followed by a Japanese fashion entrepreneur and his assistant.

After years of resisting space station visitors, NASA is now getting in on the act.

On reaching orbit, the chaperone, former NASA astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria, commented, “It was a heck of a trip.”

The visitors’ passes grant them access to all areas of the space station except the Russian section, which requires approval from the three cosmonauts on board. There are three Americans and one German that reside up there as well.

Lopez-Alegria intends to avoid discussing politics and the Ukraine conflict while aboard the space station.

“I honestly don’t believe it’ll be weird. “I mean, maybe a tad,” he said. He anticipates that the “spirit of teamwork” will show through.

The visit was planned by the private Axiom Space firm for three paying customers: Larry Connor of Dayton, Ohio, who manages the Connor Group; Mark Pathy, founder and CEO of Montreal’s Mavrik Corp.; and Israel’s Eytan Stibbe, a former fighter pilot and founding partner of Vital Capital.

Their excitement was palpable before to the launch: Stibbe did a small dance as he arrived at the rocket at Kennedy Space Center.

According to Lopez-Alegria, who spent seven months on the space station 15 years ago, SpaceX and NASA have been forthright with them about the hazards of flying.

“I don’t believe there’s any haze on what the hazards are or what the terrible days may look like,” Lopez-Alegria told The Associated Press before the journey.

Each visitor has a full schedule of experiments to do during their nine to ten days in space, which is why they dislike being referred to as space tourists.

“They’re not up there to stick their nose through the window,” said Michael Suffredini, co-founder and president of Axiom and a former NASA space station program manager.

The three businessmen are the most recent to take advantage of the increased availability of space for those with significant resources. Blue Origin, Jeff Bezos’ rocket business, is offering 10-minute flights to the edge of space, while Virgin Galactic plans to begin flying clients on its rocket ship later this year.

Friday’s voyage marks Elon Musk’s SpaceX’s second private charter, following a three-day orbit excursion for a millionaire and his companions last year.

Axiom plans to launch its second private journey to the space station next year. More client journeys will follow, with Axiom beginning to build its own rooms to the circling complex in 2024. After around five years, the firm intends to remove its compartments to build a self-sustaining station — one of many commercial outposts aimed at replacing the space station once it is abandoned and NASA goes to the moon.

During Friday’s launch, NASA’s new moon rocket was completing a dress rehearsal for a midsummer test flight on a neighboring pad.

The four tourists are eating paella and other Spanish food provided by famous chef José Andrés as a present for their seven station hosts. NASA’s freeze-dried meals will have to suffice for the rest of their tenure on the station.

On April 19, the autonomous SpaceX spacecraft is scheduled to return with the four.

Connor is paying tribute to Ohio’s aviation and space heritage by picking up a fabric swatch from the Wright brothers’ 1903 Kitty Hawk flight and gold foil from the Apollo 11 command module from the Neil Armstrong Air and Space Museum in Wapakoneta.

Stibbe will carry on a thunderstorm experiment started by the first Israeli in space, Ilan Ramon, who died onboard shuttle Columbia in 2003. They were both fighter pilots in the same unit.

Stibbe is carrying retrieved pages from Ramon’s space diaries, as well as a song written by Ramon’s musician son and a painting of pages falling from the sky created by his daughter.

“Being a member of this exceptional group proves to me that no ambition is out of reach,” he stated.

Leave a Comment