Axiom Space announces crew for first all-private orbital mission
A year after it was selected to supply the first private module for the International Space Station (ISS), Axiom Space has announced the crew for the first-ever all private crewed orbital space mission. Still awaiting legal clearance and the green light from the 15-member ISS partnership, the Axiom Mission 1 (Ax-1) will carry four astronauts to the station for an eight-day stay.
The idea of private citizens instead of official government astronauts going into space isn't new. As far back as 1975, the Soviet Union was offering places on space missions to Warsaw Pact citizens for diplomatic and propaganda purposes. Since then, astronauts have been joined by mission specialists, journalists, and even paying tourists.
However, all of these people flew on government owned and operated spacecraft on government missions. If Axiom Space gets official approval, this could change, radically. SpaceX and Boeing are already developing or operating their own crewed spacecraft to ferry astronauts to and from the ISS, but NASA does not have an exclusive contract with either company, who are free to offer their services to a wide range of private or international customers. As a result, Axiom expects to fly to the ISS aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon no earlier than January 2022.
The four men who have been chosen to fly on Ax-1 are mission commander Michael López-Alegría, who is the vice-president of Axiom and a former NASA astronaut with three Space Shuttle missions and one ISS mission to his credit; pilot Larry Connor, who is an American entrepreneur and non-profit activist investor; as well as Canadian investor and philanthropist Mark Pathy; and impact investor and philanthropist Eytan Stibbe of Israel.
In addition to the named crew, Axiom has also chosen former NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson as backup commander and John Shoffner as backup pilot. Both crews will train together, following NASA tradition.
During their eight-day stay on the space station, the Axiom crew will carry out a number of projects. This will include research by Conner with the Mayo Clinic and Cleveland clinic, as well as lessons for students back on Earth at the Dayton Early College Academy in Ohio; health-related projects by Pathy with the Canadian Space Agency and the Montreal Children’s Hospital; and experiments by Stibbe with the Ramon Foundation and the Israel Space Agency at the Ministry of Science & Technology.
The mission will be the first of two visits per year Axiom plans to make to the ISS as opportunities become available, and will be in coordination with the Axiom Station’s modules being installed on the station around 2024. After the ISS is decommissioned, the module will be detached and form the basis for a private orbital station.
"We sought to put together a crew for this historic mission that had demonstrated a lifelong commitment to improving the lives of the people on Earth, and I’m glad to say we’ve done that with this group," says Axiom Space President & CEO Michael Suffredini. "This is just the first of several Axiom Space crews whose private missions to the International Space Station will truly inaugurate an expansive future for humans in space – and make a meaningful difference in the world when they return home."
Axiom Space outlines its vision in this promo video:
Source: Axiom Space