The three first-time aviators of the first commercial crew to visit the International Space Station arrived on Saturday (Aug.
Axiom-1 (Ax-1) Commander Michael López-Alegría, who is now the first former NASA astronaut to return to the space station, marked their arrival with a short pinning ceremony in honor of fellow Ohio crewmate Larry Connor Mark Pathy from Canada and Eytan Stibbe, who is now the second citizen of Israel to go into space. The four arrived at the space station on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon Endeavor, which launched Friday (April 8) from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
“I have to tell you, this is quite an experience,” López-Alegría said as he floated alongside his three Ax-1 crewmates and the seven members of the International Space Station’s Expedition 67 crew. “I can’t even begin to describe how much fun it’s been to be with Dragon for the last day and a half or so and see these guys’ faces light up.”
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Connor, Pathy, and Stibbe’s faces all lit up again as López-Alegría recognized both as official space explorers.
“There’s a tradition that if you cross a certain limit you become an astronaut – and that limit is controversial, but in the United States it’s 50 miles [by] Altitude, and this happened for the first time to these three gentlemen yesterday,” said López-Alegría. “Some time ago, the Association of Space Explorers, which includes many members from 38 different countries who have flown astronauts, decided to commission a needle give (opens in new tab) and I happen to have three of them in my hand.”
As each Ax-1 astronaut was detained, they briefly discussed arriving at their new home and research platform for the next eight days.
“I’m thrilled and honored to be up here,” said Connor, who became only the second private astronaut to serve as a pilot on an orbital space flight. “Thank you SpaceX for the phenomenal ride. I mean, no pun intended, though [it was] heavenly.”
“We are here to experience that,” he added, “but we understand there is a responsibility, and the responsibility lies with this first civilian crew to get it right.” And we are fully committed to that, with the support of everyone here on the ISS and on the ground. So it’s going to be a busy research week for us and I’m sure it will fly by.”
During their time on the space station, the Ax-1 crew plans to participate in a multidisciplinary science program sponsored by the International Space Station’s US National Laboratory in collaboration with the Mayo Clinic, the Cleveland Clinic, the Canadian Space Agency, Montreal Children’s Hospital, Ramon Foundation and Israel Space Agency. They will also conduct activities for Axiom Space, the Houston-based space company that organized their flight as the first step in its plan to develop a commercial space station.
NASA astronaut Tom Marshburn, Expedition 67 crew commander, welcomed the Axiom-1 members to the station and recognized the milestone they reached together.
“We are all incredibly excited and excited to welcome Axiom aboard,” Marshburn said on behalf of his American, European and Russian crewmates. “On this historic day, we anticipate long-term collaboration with NASA, with our international partners, with private companies and with private astronauts.”
“So we’re ready to get to work,” he said.
The arrival of the Axiom crew was delayed by about 45 minutes on Saturday due to an issue with an overseas camera feed, the Dragon. SpaceX air traffic controllers in Hawthorne, California were able to find a workaround and docking was achieved at 8:29 am EDT (1229 GMT).
“All I can say is that the entire team did a great job,” said Kathy Lueders, deputy administrator for NASA’s Directorate of Space Operations, who attended the welcome ceremony at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. “I know the team has a lot of things to do over the next week and that will be important for us to be able to work as a team.”
Axiom Space co-founder, president and CEO Michael Suffredini, who previously served as NASA manager for the space station program, shared similar views.
“We’ve been talking about this history-making mission for a long time, so let’s stop talking about it now and just move on,” Suffredini said, addressing the combined crews on the space station. “So you have a great mission.”
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