Three businessmen and a former astronaut are scheduled to take off Friday, April 8 aboard a SpaceX rocket for the first all-special mission to the International Space Station, where they will stay for more than a week.
Take off is scheduled for 11:17 a.m. local time (4:17 p.m. in French) from the Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida.
Beginners have already visited the space station (ISS), especially in the 2000s. Last year, Russia sent a camera crew there, and then a Japanese billionaire. But these missiles flew on board Soyuz rockets accompanied by astronauts.
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A trip worth tens of millions of dollars
This time, it was Axiom Space that organized the flight, in collaboration with SpaceX and NASA, and paid for the use of its station.
The mission leader, named Ax-1, is Spanish-American Michael Lopez-Alegria, a former astronaut who has already visited the International Space Station.
The other three crew members paid tens of millions of dollars each for the experience. He played the role of American pilot Larry Connor, at the head of a real estate company.
Also on board: Canadian Mark Pathy, owner of an investment firm, and former pilot Eitan Stipe, co-founder of an investment fund.
The latter will be the second Israeli astronaut in history, after Ilan Ramon, who died in 2003 in the explosion of the American space shuttle Columbia, upon his return from the International Space Station.
“He was a good friend”Mr. Stibbe said at a news conference last week. “I will continue the experiment he started 19 years ago, focused on storm monitoring”pointed out.
The four men have a packed program, with about 25 trials, on aging, heart health, or even stem cells.
“The experiments that I am doing there, which come from Canadian universities and research institutions, may not have had the opportunity to be tested in space.” Without this mission, Mark Bathy argued.
Hundreds of hours of training
For this reason, among other things, members of Ax-1 refuse to be called space tourists.
“I think it is important to distinguish between a space tourist and private astronauts”Larry Connor said. Top “Spend 10 to 15 hours training, 5 to 10 minutes in space. […] We spent between 750 and 1,000 hours training. »
He and Michael Lopez Alegria trained on the SpaceX capsule system, Dragon.
And all of them learned how to act in an emergency situation at the station. But also for the tasks of daily living, such as washing in weightlessness.
However, their training is less advanced than that of professional astronauts, who must be able to perform spacewalks or even repair equipment.
Ax members 1 “You’ll use the toilets, but if it breaks, our crew will fix it”as determined by a NASA official, Dana Weigel, on Thursday.
The Dragon capsule is scheduled to dock with the International Space Station on Saturday around 7:30 a.m. (12:30 p.m.).
Upon arrival, the crew will receive a guided tour of the station and then go to work.
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Towards a SpaceX space station
This is only the sixth time that SpaceX has flown humans (the fifth to the International Space Station). The first flight took place less than two years ago.
Axiom Space has reached an agreement for a total of four missions with SpaceX, and NASA has already formally approved the second axis principle, Axis 2.
For Axiom Space, this is the first step toward an ambitious goal: to build its own space station.
“It is important for us to be able to repeat” Such appointments “on a smaller scale”said Michael Suffredini, president of the company.
The first module of this particular station should be launched in September 2024. The structure will first be attached to the International Space Station, before becoming independent upon the latter’s retirement, a priori around 2030.
NASA encourages this movement to privatize low orbit, which wants to generate income through these special missions and, in the long run, no longer have to manage the operation of a station, but, instead, hire the services of private structures. To focus on distant exploration.
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