The groundbreaking Ax-1 mission has achieved its off-world goal.
A SpaceX Dragon capsule carrying the four Ax-1 mission Astronauts docked with the International Space Station (ISS) at 8:29 a.m. EDT (1229 GMT) today (April 9), ending an in-orbit chase that began Friday morning (April 8). Launch on a Falcon 9 rocket. The docking was delayed by about 44 minutes due to a video problem on the station, but everything went smoothly.
“I hope you enjoyed the extra semi-orbit in Dragon, or at least found it memorable,” SpaceX flight controllers said after docking.
“We’re glad to be here, even if we’re a bit late,” said Ax-1 mission commander Michael López-Alegría, a former NASA astronaut and station commander. “I’m looking forward to the next chapter. Thanks for all the great work.” He and his crew rode SpaceX’s Dragon Endeavor crew to the station.
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Ax-1, organized by Houston-based company Axiom Space, is the first-ever fully private crewed mission to the space station. In addition to López-Alegría, the Ax-1 crew includes Larry Connor, Mark Pathy and Eytan Stibbe, who reportedly each paid around $55 million for the trip.
During the Ax-1 crew’s docking approach, cameras on the space station captured stunning views of the spacecraft during an orbital sunrise as well as a distant crescent moon.
space tourists have been on the ISS before, but never like this: All previous paying customers came on board Russian Soyuz spacecraft commanded by cosmonauts employed by Roscosmos, Russia’s federal space agency.
López-Alegria denies the characterization of Connor, Pathy and Stibbe as “space tourists” by the way, and emphasized that the trio have trained hard for the mission and will do a lot of meaningful scientific work during their eight days on board the ISS.
Earlier on Saturday, López-Alegría said the crew hadn’t stopped smiling since takeoff.
“I think there’s still a smile carried by the crew this morning,” said López-Alegría.
The crew spent their first day in space adjusting to the weightless environment and found a few surprises.
“I tried to eat a muffin this morning,” Connor said. “It didn’t turn out as expected.”
Ax-1 crew members did not enter the orbital laboratory immediately; The hatches between the Dragon and the ISS were only opened at 10:13 am EDT (1413 GMT) today.
Ax-1 will be just the beginning for Axiom Space if all goes according to plan. The company has booked several other manned flights to the ISS SpaceXand it aims to begin launching modules into the orbiting lab in late 2024. These modules will eventually detach from the ISS and become a free-flying commercial space station in low Earth orbit.
Ax-1 isn’t the first completely private manned orbital mission of any kind Inspiration4, a four-person flight funded and commanded by tech billionaire Jared Isaacman. He and his crewmates orbited the Earth for nearly three days in September 2021 aboard a Dragon capsule that never made contact with the ISS.
Editor’s Note: This story was updated April 9 at 11:25 am EDT with news of the hatch opening between Ax-1s Dragon and the ISS.
Mike Wall is the author of “Out there (opens in new tab)(Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for extraterrestrial life. Follow him on Twitter @michaelwall (opens in new tab). Follow us on Twitter @spacedotcom (opens in new tab) or on Facebook (opens in new tab).