CAPE CANAVERAL (AP) – On Monday, three wealthy businessmen returned to the International Space Station accompanied their astronaut. This was a costly trip that marked NASA’s debut as a B&B host.
The SpaceX capsule brought them back to the USA. They then flew down the Atlantic coast of Florida, closing a 17-day tour that had cost them $55 million each.
The trip was meant to last just over a week. But, the weather was so bad that it kept people on track for almost twice the time.
After leaving the space station, the group thanked seven of their hosts, which included three NASA astronauts whose mission was nearing completion.
After decades of practice by Russia, this was the first time NASA opened its space doors to tourists. A Russian photo crew and a Japanese fashion mogul flew in last autumn. Each case involved an active-duty cosmonaut who traveled with them.
Last guests were accompanied at the station by an ex-NASA astronaut, now working for Axiom, the Houston company responsible for the flight. This was the first private trip to space station.
NASA is eager to welcome the next crew after a more than expected stay. SpaceX will launch three NASA and one Italian astronauts to the space station by Wednesday. They will replace the three Americans, Germans and Italians who have been up there since November.
NASA standards indicate that the pace is remarkable fast. NASA flight director Zeev Skoil said, “It’s certainly exciting.”
Axiom managed the logistics for three of its paying clients, Larry Connor, an American real estate mogul; Mark Pati, Canada’s Private Equity CEO; and Eitan Shtiv, an Israeli investor from Tel Aviv. Michael Lopez-Allegria was the vice president of Axiom and flew in space four times as an astronaut.
Lopez-Allegria described it as “an incredible adventure we experienced, even more long and exciting than we thought.”
Axiom was a SpaceX passenger on a journey that began at NASA’s Canadian Space Center in April 8. This was SpaceX’s second flight private, coming a few month after the arrival of a billionaire in orbit with the winners.
Visitors to space experimented with and viewed Earth from their backs.
Pati stated, “It opened up my eyes in so many different ways that I believe it will have such an impact on my life.”
Steve was particularly touched by the experience. He was a fighter pilot for Ilan Ramon, who was the first Israeli astronaut to die aboard Columbia in 2003.
Shtib sent copies of the pages that survived Ramon’s space diary as well as artwork, music and art created by Ramon to Shtib. He celebrated Passover by eating the matzah bread and gefilte fish that the station’s Russians provided.
Axiom’s 2nd flight is planned for early next year. The company also looks forward to building its own space station in 2030.
Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education provides support to the Associated Press’s Department of Health and Science. All content is the sole responsibility of the Associated Press.