NATIONAL NEWS

SpaceX launches 3 visitors to space station for $55M each

Apr 8, 2022, 11:26 AM | Updated: Jun 13, 2022, 3:36 pm
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the company's Crew Dragon spacecraft is launched on Axiom Mission...
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the company's Crew Dragon spacecraft is launched on Axiom Mission 1 (Ax-1) to the International Space Station with Commander Michael López-Alegría of Spain and the United States, Pilot Larry Connor of the United States, and Mission Specialists Eytan Stibbe of Israel, and Mark Pathy of Canada aboard, Friday, April 8, 2022, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The Ax-1 mission is the first private astronaut mission to the International Space Station. López-Alegría, Connor, Pathy, Stibbe launched at 11:17 a.m. from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center to begin their 10-day mission. Photo Credit: (NASA/Joel Kowsky)
(NASA/Joel Kowsky)

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — SpaceX launched three rich businessmen and their astronaut escort to the International Space Station on Friday for more than a week’s stay, as NASA joins Russia in hosting guests at the world’s most expensive tourist destination.

It’s SpaceX’s first private charter flight to the orbiting lab after two years of carrying astronauts there for NASA.

Arriving at the space station Saturday will be an American, Canadian and Israeli who run investment, real estate and other companies. They’re paying $55 million apiece for the rocket ride and accommodations, all meals included.

Russia has been hosting tourists at the space station — and before that the Mir station — for decades. Just last fall, a Russian movie crew flew up, followed by a Japanese fashion tycoon and his assistant.

NASA is finally getting into the act, after years of opposing space station visitors.

“It was a hell of a ride,” said former NASA astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria, the chaperone, on reaching orbit.

The visitors’ tickets include access to all but the Russian portion of the space station — they’ll need permission from the three cosmonauts on board. Three Americans and a German also live up there.

Lopez-Alegria plans to avoid talking about politics and the war in Ukraine while he’s at the space station.

“I honestly think that it won’t be awkward. I mean maybe a tiny bit,” he said. He expects the “spirit of collaboration will shine through.”

The private Axiom Space company arranged the visit with NASA for its three paying customers: Larry Connor of Dayton, Ohio, who runs the Connor Group; Mark Pathy, founder and CEO of Montreal’s Mavrik Corp.; and Israel’s Eytan Stibbe, a former fighter pilot and founding partner of Vital Capital.

Before the launch, their enthusiasm was obvious: Stibbe did a little dance when he arrived at the rocket at Kennedy Space Center.

SpaceX and NASA have been upfront with them about the risks of spaceflight, said Lopez-Alegria, who spent seven months at the space station 15 years ago.

“There’s no fuzz, I think, on what the dangers are or what the bad days could look like,” Lopez-Alegria told The Associated Press before the flight.

Each visitor has a full slate of experiments to conduct during their nine to 10 days there, one reason they don’t like to be called space tourists.

“They’re not up there to paste their nose on the window,” said Axiom’s co-founder and president, Michael Suffredini, a former NASA space station program manager.

The three businessmen are the latest to take advantage of the opening of space to those with deep pockets. Jeff Bezos’ rocket company Blue Origin is taking customers on 10-minute rides to the edge of space, while Virgin Galactic expects to start flying customers on its rocket ship later this year.

Friday‘s flight is the second private charter for Elon Musk’s SpaceX, which took a billionaire and his guests on a three-day orbit ride last year.

Axiom is targeting next year for its second private flight to the space station. More customer trips will follow, with Axiom adding its own rooms to the orbiting complex beginning in 2024. After about five years, the company plans to detach its compartments to form a self-sustaining station — one of several commercial outposts intended to replace the space station once it’s retired and NASA shifts to the moon.

At an adjacent pad during Friday’s launch: NASA’s new moon rocket, which is awaiting completion of a dress rehearsal for a summertime test flight.

As a gift for their seven station hosts, the four visitors are taking up paella and other Spanish cuisine prepared by celebrity chef José Andrés. The rest of their time at the station, NASA’s freeze-dried chow will have to do.

The automated SpaceX capsule is due back with the four on April 19.

Connor is honoring Ohio’s air and space legacy, taking up a fabric swatch from the Wright brothers’ 1903 Kitty Hawk flyer and gold foil from the Apollo 11 command module from the Neil Armstrong Air and Space Museum in Wapakoneta.

Only the second Israeli in space, Stibbe will continue a thunderstorm experiment begun by the first — Ilan Ramon, who died aboard shuttle Columbia in 2003. They were in the same fighter pilot squadron.

Stibbe is carrying copies of recovered pages of Ramon’s space diary, as well as a song composed by Ramon’s musician son and a painting of pages falling from the sky by his daughter.

“To be a part of this unique crew is a proof for me that there’s no dream beyond reach,” he said.

___

The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

National News

The American destroyer USS Shaw explodes during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour (Pearl Harbor)...
Audrey McAvoy, Associated Press

Hawaii remembrance to draw handful of Pearl Harbor survivors

A handful of centenarian survivors of the attack on Pearl Harbor are expected to gather at the scene in Hawaii to commemorate those who perished 81 years ago in the Japanese bombing.
10 hours ago
Georgia Democratic Senate candidate U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA) answers questions from the med...
BILL BARROW and JEFF AMY, Associated Press

Democratic Sen. Warnock wins Georgia runoff against Walker

Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock has defeated Republican challenger Herschel Walker in a runoff election in Georgia.
1 day ago
Four University of Idaho students were found dead Nov. 13 at this three-story home on King Road in ...
Veronica Miracle, Stella Chan and Jason Hanna, CNN

Investigators have quality leads in the killings of 4 students, police say

Investigators have "a lot of quality leads" about last month's killings of four University of Idaho students in an off-campus house police said.
1 day ago
District of Columbia Police Chief Robert Contee looks on as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) passe...
MARY CLARE JALONICK, FARNOUSH AMIRI and LISA MASCARO, Associated Press

Jan. 6 ‘heroes’ honored for defending Capitol from Trump mob

Top House and Senate leaders have bestowed Congress' highest honor on law enforcement officers who defended the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
1 day ago
The U.S. flag flies at half staff over the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, DC on May 12, 2022 ...
Madison Swenson

Gov. Cox orders flags lowered for National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox has ordered all flags be lowered to half-staff on Wednesday as part of National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day.
1 day ago
Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally at Legacy Sports USA on October 09, 2...
MICHAEL R. SISAK Associated Press

Trump Organization convicted in executive tax dodge scheme

Donald Trump’s company was convicted of tax fraud on Tuesday in a case brought by the Manhattan District Attorney.
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

notebook with password notes highlighted...
PC Laptops

How to Create Strong Passwords You Can Actually Remember

Learn how you can create strong passwords that are actually easy to remember! In a short time you can create new ones in seconds.
house with for rent sign posted...
Chase Harrington, president and COO of Entrata

Top 5 reasons you may want to consider apartment life over owning a home

There are many benefits of renting that can be overshadowed by the allure of buying a home. Here are five reasons why renting might be right for you.
Festive kitchen in Christmas decorations. Christmas dining room....
Lighting Design

6 Holiday Decor Trends to Try in 2022

We've rounded out the top 6 holiday decor trends for 2022 so you can be ahead of the game before you start shopping. 
Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to choose what MBA program is right for you: Take this quiz before you apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
Diverse Group of Energetic Professionals Team Meeting in Modern Office: Brainstorming IT Programmer...
Les Olson

Don’t let a ransomware attack get you down | Protect your workplace today with cyber insurance

Business owners and operators should be on guard to protect their workplace. Cyber insurance can protect you from online attacks.
Hand turning a thermostat knob to increase savings by decreasing energy consumption. Composite imag...
Lighting Design

5 Lighting Tips to Save Energy and Money in Your Home

Advances in lighting technology make it easier to use smart features to cut costs. Read for tips to save energy by using different lighting strategies in your home.
SpaceX launches 3 visitors to space station for $55M each