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NASA delays launch of its first tourism mission to ISS

NASA has delayed the launch of its first space tourism mission to the International Space Station (ISS).

The Ax-1 mission, organized by Texas-based Axiom Space, was supposed to launch from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Sunday, April 3, but the date has been shifted to Wednesday, April 6.

It appears that ongoing preparations for NASA’s Artemis I lunar mission at a nearby launchpad prompted the delay.

For Ax-1, three amateur astronauts will fly aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft powered into orbit by a Falcon 9 rocket. Canadian investor and philanthropist Mark Pathy, American entrepreneur Larry Connor, and former Israeli Air Force pilot Eytan Stibbe have reportedly paid around $55 million each for the trip of a lifetime, which will include a 10-day stay aboard the space station.

The fourth participant is mission commander Michael López-Alegría, a former NASA astronaut.

All of the crewmembers have undergone months of intensive training for a mission that will involve carrying out various research and technology demonstrations in microgravity conditions, as well as taking in the awesome views of Earth 250 miles below.

The ISS will be more crowded than usual when the tourists arrive. The station’s rotating crew usually comprises around six or seven astronauts from various countries, but when the Ax-1 crew arrives, that number will increase to 11.

As part of final preparations for Ax-1, NASA will conduct a static fire test of the Falcon 9 rocket engines on Monday, April 4, two days before launch.

Commenting on the mission when it was announced by Axiom Space last year, Ax-1 mission commander López-Alegría said: “This collection of pioneers — the first space crew of its kind — represents a defining moment in humanity’s eternal pursuit of exploration and progress.”

He continued: “I know from firsthand experience that what humans encounter in space is profound and propels them to make more meaningful contributions on returning to Earth … I look forward to leading this crew and to their next meaningful and productive contributions to the human story, both on orbit and back home.”

To learn more about how astronauts live and work aboard the International Space Station, check out these hands-on videos made by station inhabitants over the years.

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