NASA is gearing up for the launch of its first space tourism mission to the International Space Station (ISS).
The Ax-1 mission, organized by Texas-based Axiom Space and using a SpaceX launch vehicle, will lift off from the Kennedy Space Center at 12:05 p.m. ET (9:12 a.m. PT) on Wednesday, April 6.
As part of the build-up, Axiom Space has released a 60-second cinematic trailer (below) for the mission.
The crew comprises Canadian investor and philanthropist Mark Pathy, American entrepreneur Larry Connor, and former Israeli Air Force pilot Eytan Stibbe, with each member reportedly handing over $55 million for the one-off, 10-day experience.
Riding alongside the high-paying tourists will be mission commander Michael López-Alegría, a former NASA astronaut with extensive experience of space travel. All four have undergone months of intensive training for the upcoming adventure.
For their massive payout, the three amateur spacefarers will experience a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket ride to orbit aboard a Crew Dragon capsule, followed by a more gentle journey to the space station some 250 miles above Earth.
They’ll then spend the following eight days carrying out more than 25 research and technology experiments while living and working alongside seven professional astronauts (plus López-Alegría) already aboard the ISS.
“The collection of biological and technological tests during the Ax-1 mission represent a breadth of research that will inform everything from human health considerations to novel infrastructure and design for our future homes away from Earth, beginning with Axiom Station,” Christian Maender, director of In-space Manufacturing and Research for Axiom Space, said recently.
At the end of the mission, the Ax-1 crew will climb aboard the Crew Dragon to begin the high-speed journey home, splashing down off the coast of Florida in mid-April.
The historic Ax-1 mission marks NASA’s first big effort at commercializing the space station, a move that will help it to raise funds from private sources for future missions.
This won’t, however, be the first time that the ISS has hosted private citizens. In 2001, for example, American Dennis Tito became the first space tourist after handing over a reported $20 million to NASA’s counterpart, Roscosmos, for a trip to the space station aboard a Soyuz spacecraft.
More recently, two Japanese space tourists — one of them being billionaire entrepreneur Yusaku Maezawa — paid Roscosmos for a 12-day stay aboard the orbiting outpost.
NASA and Axiom Space are already planning a second tourism mission to the ISS that’s expected to take place in early 2023.
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