The groundbreaking Ax-1 mission has arrived at its destination beyond Earth.
A SpaceX Dragon capsule containing the four Ax-1 mission astronauts docked at the International Space Station (ISS) at 8:29 a.m. EDT (1229 GMT) today (April 9), ending an orbital chase that began Friday morning (April 8) with a launch atop a Falcon 9 rocket† The docking was delayed about 44 minutes due to a video problem at the station, but everything went smoothly.
“Hope you enjoyed the extra half orbit in Dragon or at least found it memorable,” said SpaceX flight controllers after docking.
“We’re glad to be here, even if we’re a little late,” said Michael López-Alegría, Ax-1 mission commander, a former NASA astronaut and station commander. “Looking forward to the next chapter. Thanks for all the great work.” He and his crew drove SpaceX’s Crew Dragon Endeavor to the station.
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Organized by Houston-based company Axiom Space, Ax-1 is the first-ever fully privately manned mission to the space station. In addition to López-Alegría, the Ax-1crew includes Larry Connor, Mark Pathy and Eytan Stibbe, who reportedly paid about $55 million each for the trip.
During the Ax-1 crew’s landing approach, cameras on the space station captured a beautiful view of the spacecraft during an orbital sunrise, as well as with a crescent moon in the distance.
space tourists have been to the ISS before, but never this way: all previous paying customers boarded Russian . there Soyuz spacecraft commanded by cosmonauts employed by Roscosmos, the Russian federal space agency.
López-Alegría disputes the characterization by Connor, Pathy and Stibbe as “space tourists,” by the way, emphasizing that the trio trained hard for the mission and will perform a variety of meaningful scientific work during their eight days aboard the ISS.
Earlier Saturday, López-Alegría said the crew has not stopped smiling since launch.
“I think there is still a smile worn by the crew this morning,” said López-Alegría.
The crew spent the first day in space adjusting to the weightless environment and discovered some surprises.
“I tried to eat a muffin this morning,” Connor said. “That didn’t go as expected.”
The crew of the Ax-1 did not immediately enter the orbital lab; the hatches between the Dragon and the ISS didn’t open until 10:13 a.m. EDT (1413 GMT) today.
Ax-1 is just the beginning for Axiom Space, if everything goes according to plan. The company has booked several other manned flights to the ISS with SpaceXand it is planned to start launching modules to the orbit lab by the end of 2024. These modules will eventually detach from the ISS and become a free-flying commercial space station in low Earth orbit.
Ax-1 is not the first fully privately manned orbital mission of any type. That distinction goes to Inspiration4, a four-person flight funded and led by tech billionaire Jared Isaacman. He and his crewmates orbited Earth for nearly three days in September 2021 aboard a Dragon capsule, which the ISS has never encountered.
Editor’s Note: This story was updated at 11:25 a.m. EDT on April 9, with news of the hatch opening between Ax-1’s Dragon and the ISS.
Mike Wall is the author of “Outside (opens in new tab)(Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book on the search for extraterrestrial life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall (opens in new tab)† follow us on twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in new tab) or on facebook (opens in new tab)†