NASA says: Miguel López-Alegría is already traveling to space on the first mission of private astronauts: “What a historic launch,”

The first space mission made up 100% by private astronauts took off this Friday from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, heading for the International Space Station (ISS). “What a historic launch,” said NASA Director Bill Nelson, moments after SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft took off.

Leading the Axiom-1 mission is veteran astronaut Miguel López-Alegría, born in Spain and with American nationality. After retiring from NASA 10 years ago, he is now the vice president of business development at Axiom, one of the pioneering companies that aims to make space accessible to more countries, companies and citizens. This is the fifth time that López-Alegría has traveled to space.

The other crew members of the Axiom-1 mission are American pilot Larry Connor and specialists Mark Pathy, from Canada, and Eytan Stibbe, from Israel. They travel in a Crew Dragon spacecraft powered by a Falcon 9 rocket , both from Elon Musk’s company SpaceX. The three are millionaires and have paid around 50 million euros to participate in this adventure, but the Axiom company and the members of the mission maintain that they are not space tourists but private astronauts.

Larry Connor, Miguel López-Alegría, Mark Pathy and Eytan Stibbe
Larry Connor, Miguel López-Alegría, Mark Pathy and Eytan Stibbe AXIOM Axiom Space EFE

In total, his trip will last 10 days, eight of which will be spent on the ISS, the orbital platform located 400 kilometers from Earth, carrying out 25 research experiments and various tasks for educational purposes.

TAKEOFF

The first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket has successfully separated a few minutes after takeoff, which began at 5:17 p.m. (Spanish peninsular time), as planned. This component is designed to return to Earth moments later through a controlled landing on a ship located in the Atlantic Ocean, a maneuver that has been carried out successfully nine and a half minutes after launch. Three minutes later it was confirmed that the separation of the second stage of the rocket had also taken place correctly.

For now, the flight is proceeding as planned and the four crew members travel to the ISS, where they are scheduled to arrive tomorrow, Saturday. Automatic docking of the Crew Dragon spacecraft with the ISS Harmony module is scheduled to be completed at 1:45 p.m. Afterwards, the welcome ceremony will take place by the seven crew members who currently live on the orbital platform: Thomas Marshburn, Raja Chari and Kayla Barron, from NASA; the German Matthias Maurer, from the European Space Agency (ESA); and Russian cosmonauts Oleg Artemyev, Sergey Korsokov, and Denis Matveev.

“When they cross the threshold to enter the ISS, we will mark the beginning of a new era in private human spaceflight,” said Michael Suffredini, president and CEO of Axiom Space, Suffredini, who before founding this company worked for the NASA – he was head of the ISS at the space agency for a decade.

FUTURE PRIVATE MISSIONS

Axiom-1 is the first mission launched by the Axiom company, which aims to take modules into space that will be integrated into the ISS, and in the future have its own independent space station that allows citizens, countries and private companies to access the space. For this reason, this Friday’s mission is considered an important step in the development of a new business model in space. NASA, which charges for the use of the ISS facilities, is a strong advocate of expanding commercial activities on the orbital platform, as its goal is to keep it operational until 2030.

Miguel López-Alegría, after the last proof test
Miguel López-Alegría, after the last proof test M. LÓPEZ-ALEGRÍA/AXIOM

Axiom plans to carry out another three launches with private crew members in the next two years. The next mission, Ax-2, will be commanded by fellow veteran former NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson, now Axiom’s Director of Manned Flight.

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