Three businessmen dock at space station on private SpaceX charter flight

Apr 10, 2022

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Space travel has taken a giant leap forward. Ask the three wealthy businessmen who arrived Saturday at the International Space Station for a stay of more than a week. Each paid $55 million to be onboard SpaceX and NASA’s first private charter mission to the orbiting lab.

NASA has previously been reluctant to encourage visits to the space station. On its first private charter last year, Elon Musk’s SpaceX took billionaire Jared Isaacman and three guests instead on a three-day orbit in space.

For two years, SpaceX has been carrying only astronauts to the space station. That changed with Friday’s launch of a Falcon rocket from Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The team

Onboard the Dragon spacecraft were real estate and technology entrepreneur Larry Connor of Dayton, Ohio; Canadian businessman Mark Pathy, CEO of Mavrik, a privately-owned investment company; and Eytan Stibbe of Israel, a philanthropist and founding partner of the Vital Capital Fund, who is also a former Israeli fighter pilot. Stibbe is only the second Israeli to fly in space.

The $55 million fare paid by the businessmen covers transportation to and from the International Space Station, accommodations and meals.

The businessmen were accompanied by a former astronaut, Michael Lopez-Alegría, who previously spent several months at the space station while working for NASA – and is now an executive with the mission’s organizer, Houston-based Axiom Space.

The trip

Lift off was Friday, April 8. “That was a hell of a ride,” Lopez-Alegría radioed back to NASA mission controllers after the spacecraft reached orbit.

“On its flight to the International Space Station, Dragon executed a series of burns that positioned the vehicle progressively closer to the station before it performed final docking maneuvers, followed by pressurization of the vestibule, hatch opening, and crew ingress,” SpaceX posted online Saturday

The mission

The private Ax-1 mission crew will spend more than a week at the space station. During that time they will do educational outreach and conduct “innovative” research experiments, according to Axiom Space. It was unclear if the visitors would be invited to visit the Russian section of the space station.

The private mission is scheduled to splashdown off the Florida coast on April 19.

Related: How to redeem miles for flights to space

More space tourism opportunity

Axiom Space is planning another private charter mission (Ax-2) to the space station, to launch between fall of this year and late spring 2023

If $55 million is beyond your pocketbook, Virgin Galactic has been selling tickets on its rocket ship for $450,000, for a 90-minute trip into space. You may even be able to redeem 2 million Flying Club miles for your trip.

Or consider a Zero G flight for even cheaper thrills.

Featured image courtesy of NASA.

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