This is the first-ever fully private flight to the International Space Station. Friday, April 8 at 5:17 p.m. French time, a Falcon rocket from Florida will leave Earth with 4 men on board. If all goes well the crew from Axiom Space’s Ax-1 mission will arrive Saturday morning aboard the International Space Station (ISS), to stay there for eight days.
Of these four new passengers, Michael López-Alegría, NASA veteran, gone private represents the only professional astronaut. The others, Larry Connor, Mark Pathy and Eytan Stibbe, are businessmen. They offered themselves this trip for the modest sum of 50 million euros each, according to the figure given by the Washington Post† On board they will conduct some science experiments, but they will also spend time simply opening their eyes from the famous Cupola, this glass wall that offers an unobstructed view of the Earth.
Tea @Axiom_Space #Ax1 mission is less than a day from launch to station as the Exp 67 crew prepares for a few spacewalks in April. https://t.co/XVRcADbFhO
— International Space Station (@Space_Station) Apr 7, 2022
The mission is an initiative of the American private company Axiom, which eventually wants to develop its own station. Within a decade, the current ISS will be abandoned, taken out of orbit and sent into the atmosphere to disintegrate. This leaves room on the west side for a station of its own, inspired by the present. The first modules that will make up it, a kind of metal cylinder about ten meters long and four meters in diameter, are currently under construction at Thalès Alenia Space in a factory in Turin. “The Axiom elements represent a transition between the current state-run station, details Anna Maria Piras the manager of this program, and a future use of this part of the Earth’s orbit as a place accessible to a wider range of users, especially those from the private sector.”
“The elements will first connect to the rest of the ISS to provide it with additional space. By 2026, they will separate to form a fully autonomous, commercial low-orbit station.”Anna Maria Piras, Program Manager
For the chic side and to attract private customers, Axiom took out the silverware and entrusted the interior design of these modules to the French designer Philippe Starck. “I have made a very pleasant padded egg that isolates them from noise, shock and in which they have total freedom of configurationsexplains the famous designer. If they have to put a screen in front of them, they will. If they need a net to put things in to keep them from flying, they do. It is a soft and very human environment that is completely adapted to the absence of gravity. They were very satisfied with the project.†
If everything works on time, the first module of this future space station will leave Earth in 2024.