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SpaceX launch: Here’s who’s on board the ISS’s first fully private space tourism mission


Passengers on this trip — which includes former NASA astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegría, who will command the mission as an Axiom employee, and three paying customers — are scheduled to depart Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 11 a.m. Friday. 5 PM ET. . They will ride inside a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule, the same capsule SpaceX has previously used to transport NASA astronauts to the ISS. The capsule orbits above one of SpaceX’s 230-foot-tall Falcon 9 rockets.

The capsule will then separate from the rocket and fly freely through space all day Thursday as the spacecraft slowly approaches the ISS. It is expected to dock with the space station around 3 a.m. ET on Friday.

This mission, called AX-1, will mark the first time in history that private citizens, or otherwise non-professional astronauts, will launch to the ISS from US soil. And it’s the first of what Axiom, the company that organized and brokered this mission with SpaceX, hopes will be many similar flights for anyone who can afford it.

The AX-1 mission is also only the second space tourism flight for SpaceX, following the September 2021 launch of four private citizens on a three-day free-flying trip through orbit that traveled even further. higher than the ISS.

During their eight-day stay on the space station, the AX-1 crew will conduct science experiments, break bread with the professional astronauts already aboard the football-field-sized space station. and enjoy breathtaking views of our home planet. below.

Who is on this mission?

Lopez-Alegría, 63, completed four space trips between 1995 and 2007 while at NASA. He left the space agency in 2012 and joined Axiom a few years later with the goal of returning to space, but as a private astronaut rather than an official corps member.

Axiom mediates between paying customers who want to take a sensational multimillion-dollar trip to space, book flights with SpaceX, handle negotiations with NASA, and support the training of future space travelers. Axiom hopes to make these flights a regular occurrence, as NASA agreed a few years ago to open the ISS to space tourism and other commercial ventures.

It is not known how much these trips cost the customer. Although previously leaked prices listed a trip to the ISS as $55 million per seat, Axiom declined to confirm that figure this week. “Axiom Space does not disclose financial terms,” ​​Axiom spokeswoman Bettina Inclan told CNN Business via email.)

There are three paying customers on this flight. They are all wealthy white men, continuing a trend plaguing the commercial spaceflight industry and its inaccessibility to more diverse sections of the population. The vast majority of people who have so far been able to afford to pay for their trip to space — whether on SpaceX flights or suborbital missions like those offered by Blue Origin — have been white businesspeople. It shows how far reality is from the deep space dream promised by entrepreneurs who claim that space is “for everyone” and that the commercialization of space will “democratize” it in a context of income inequality. growing. With such exuberant prices, space will remain commercially accessible only to the elite for the foreseeable future. While the ultimate goal is to drastically reduce the cost of accessing the space, with the hope that ticket prices will be affordable for more people, it is unclear how or when this will happen.

Real estate mogul Larry Connor

SpaceX launch: Here’s who’s on board the ISS’s first fully private space tourism mission

Larry Connor, 72, is a real estate magnate from Dayton, Ohio. He founded The Connor Group, which has developments in 16 markets across the country and has more than $3.5 billion in assets, according to the company’s website. He is a keen adventurer, having raced cars and climbed mountains.

He also has experience as a private pilot and has participated in aerobatic competitions, and he will be the designated pilot for this mission. (It should be noted that SpaceX’s Crew Dragon is fully autonomous, although spaceflight pilots train to be ready to take over, should something go wrong.)

“My journey really started seven or eight years ago. I’ve always been interested in space, and I started thinking about it after reading the story of an American who went to Russia and was went on the Soyuz. [spacecraft]”, he said in an interview with the Dayton Society of Natural History last year, after his plan to fly on AX-1 was revealed.

Connor was likely referring to one of the American citizens who booked a flight to the ISS through Space Adventures, a company that has reserved seats on Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft for tourists since the early 2000s. were always coordinated with the Russian space agency and included official Russian astronauts. The AX-1 mission will be the first to include a crew composed entirely of private astronauts.

Connor said he decided to save the mission for “the challenge”.

“We’re really going to train to professional astronaut standards,” he said.

Former Shipping CEO Mark Pathy

SpaceX launch: Here’s who’s on board the ISS’s first fully private space tourism mission

Mark Pathy, 52, is the founder and CEO of Canadian investment firm and family office Mavrik Corp. Its website says Mavrik is “particularly focused on innovation, entrepreneurship and responsible investing,” though few of its investment decisions are public. .

CB Insights, which tracks private investments, lists only one known investment. He backed a Canadian startup called Winter Farm, which says it “offers AI-powered farm automation tools.”
Pathy is also the former CEO of a shipping company, Fednav, which is a Pathy family business.
Of the AX-1 mission, Pathy told CTV News, “It’s a lot of money. I feel very lucky to be able to afford this kind of trip. Obviously not many people can. But at the same time, I don’t have to, fortunately, choose between doing something like that or being active philanthropically.”

He added that it was “a dream since I was little and watched Captain Kirk bounce around the universe in the Enterprise” to go to space.

Eytan Stibbe

SpaceX launch: Here’s who’s on board the ISS’s first fully private space tourism mission

Eytan Stibbe, 64, is an Israeli businessman.

According to his Axiom biography, Stibbe, a former Israeli Air Force fighter pilot, founded Vital Capital ten years ago. Its website says the company invests in companies involved in sectors such as food and health in developing regions, including Africa, for “high yield opportunities”.

Axiom says Stibbe’s trip is being “in collaboration” with the Ramon Foundation, a space education nonprofit named in honor of Israel’s first astronaut, Ilan Ramon, who died in the space shuttle disaster. Columbia in 2003. Stibbe’s Axiom bio also says he and Ramon shared a “close” friendship. Stibbe will only be the second Israeli to go into space.

He announced his decision to join the AX-1 crew during a ceremony at the Israeli president’s residence in 2020, and it was criticized by the Israeli press, which pointed to alleged connections in the past of Stibbe, in particular linked to accusations of trafficking in military equipment. during his time at LR Group, an investment and development group and which he left in 2011, according to a representative for Stibbe.

Specifically, reports allege that Stibbe was involved in the sale of military aircraft to Angola, which was embroiled in a brutal civil war from the 1970s to 2002.

The allegations date back to reports by the Israeli news site Haaretz.

In a 2012 television interview, conducted in Hebrew and translated by Israeli media and CNN Business, Stibbe also appeared to confirm his involvement.

“We helped Angola end the war by bringing them interceptor planes, two Su-27 fighter jets, from Uzbekistan,” he said. “Their presence in the country stopped the flights that provided arms, food and ammunition and the export of illegal diamonds from Angola. After a year or a year and a half, the war ended.”

A statement shared with CNN Business on behalf of Stibbe says “LR Group’s activities in Angola focused almost exclusively on agricultural infrastructure, job training, water, airports and telecommunications.”

She adds that LR Group “received a request from the [US-backed Angolan] government to help upgrade its airspace infrastructure to ICAO international standards”, and that the aircraft sales were made “with export licenses and were completely legal”.

“In addition, aircraft and air traffic control radars were used for deterrence purposes only,” the statement said.

LR Group responded in a statement to CNN Business, saying “LR Group has been involved in healthcare, telecommunications, food, agriculture, renewable energy and water, in the aim of developing the independence and the economic and social well-being of the local populations”. populations around the world. »

“During Stibbe’s time as a partner in the firm, he was the partner responsible for operating and financing the firm’s business activity in Angola,” the statement said. “After separating from the company, he bought the activity in Angola in 2012, and continued to operate there.”

LR Group is currently embroiled in litigation over allegations against Stibbe from when he was a partner in the business.

Representatives for Stibbe declined to comment on the legal battle.

As for his decision to go into space, Stibbe said “as a child, on dark nights, I used to look at the stars and wait patiently to see a shooting star, and I thought asked: what is there beyond what the eyes see?” he said in comments translated by i24NEWS.

With its launch scheduled for this week, Stibbe will soon find out.

Cnn

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