In a first, all-private astronaut team reaches International Space Station after 21-hour SpaceX journey


The first all-private crew of astronauts to ever launch to the International Space Station (ISS) arrived safely at the orbiting research platform on Saturday, marking a watershed moment in commercial spaceflight history. The astronauts will begin a week-long scientific mission aboard the ISS on Monday. On Friday, a crew of four people representing the Houston-based firm Axiom Space Inc flew from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center aboard a Falcon 9 rocket, which was launched by SpaceX, and arrived at the rendezvous location after around 21 hours.

The Crew Dragon spacecraft was sent into orbit on Saturday morning by the International Space Station (ISS) rocket, which docked at around 8:30 a.m. EDT (1230 GMT). In the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, the two spacecraft sailed around 250 miles (420 kilometres) above the surface. Due to a technical fault, the final approach was delayed, which caused the video feed that was used to monitor the capsule’s rendezvous with the International Space Station to be interrupted. The final approach was eventually completed successfully. While mission control was working to resolve the situation, the Crew Dragon was obliged to hold and halt its position 20 metres away from the station for around 45 minutes while they investigated the problem.

Because of the difficulty in docking, it took approximately two additional hours for the sealed passageway between the crew capsule and space station to be checked and pressurised for leaks before the hatches that would let the newcomers into orbit could be opened and the astronauts allowed to board the International Space Station. In charge of the global Axiom team was former NASA astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria, 63, who is also the company’s vice president for business development. Lopez-Alegria is of Spanish descent and was born in the United States. The mission will last eight days in space, according to the crew.

Larry Connor, an entrepreneur in real estate and technology who also happens to be an aerobatics pilot from Ohio, served as the mission’s second in command and pilot.

As mission experts, Eytan Stibbe, a Canadian businessman and philanthropist who was once an Israeli fighter pilot, and Canadian businessman and philanthropist, Mark Pathy (52), completed the Ax-1 crew’s complement of four men and women.

It will be SpaceX’s sixth human spaceflight in less than two years with the Axiom mission. Accordng to executives at Axiom, their astronaut ventures and plans to construct a private space station in Earth orbit go far beyond the Astro-tourism services offered to wealthy customers by companies such as Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin, which are owned by billionaire entrepreneurs Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos, respectively.


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