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Ax-1 crew returns safely to Earth, completing first all-private astronaut mission to space station

The Axiom Mission 1 (Ax-1) crew and the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft safely splashed down off the coast of Florida at 1:06 p.m., EDT, April 25, 2022.

The Ax-1 crew’s arrival back to Earth officially concludes the first all-private astronaut mission to the International Space Station (ISS), successfully demonstrating Axiom Space’s ability to integrate with the ISS and conduct meaningful research.

“It’s remarkable to think what was once a dream of visionaries is now a reality as we have officially opened a new era in human-spaceflight with Ax-1,” said AX-1 commander, Michael Lopez-Alegria. Lopez-Alegria is vice president of business development at Axiom Space, and a former NASA astronaut. “This mission pushed the boundaries further and beyond and opened the door to a future that allows access to Space for a much broader and more international audience.

“The Ax-1 mission would not have been possible without the remarkable team of professionals at Axiom Space, NASA, SpaceX, training teams, our personal friends and family, and so many others who, through sheer passion, enthusiasm, hard work, and resilience helped us to succeed and navigate this uncharted path.”

During their 17-day mission, Lopez-Alegria, Pilot Larry Connor, and Mission Specialists Eytan Stibbe and Mark Pathy worked aboard the orbiting laboratory for 15 days. They flew approximately 6.3 million miles, about 240 orbits of Earth. Among the many highlights:

  • Ax-1 supported 26 science payloads and technology demonstrations that had been curated with leading academic and research partners around the globe, including the Mayo Clinic, Montreal Children’s Hospital, Cleveland Clinic, and the Ramon Foundation, as well as research investigations from Axiom’s partners such as studying self-assembling technology for future space habitats, devices to purify air on space stations, and more;
  • The Axiom astronauts served as research subjects to better understand the impacts of microgravity on the human body, as well as methods for maintaining connectedness to loved ones on Earth during space travel; and
  • The Ax-1 crew shared the excitement of expanded access to space with a new generation of space explorers, participating in over 30 STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) engagements. Outreach efforts were conducted in English, Hebrew, Spanish, French, and Arabic

In keeping with the mission’s emphasis on scientific discovery, within hours of splashdown and recovery, the astronauts will take part in post-flight studies such as providing biomedical and physiological data for researchers at the Translational Research Institute for Space Health to gauge the effects of spaceflight on the human body, including changes in vision, balance, and perception.

The 11-person crew aboard the station comprises of (clockwise from bottom right) Expedition 67 Commander Tom Marshburn with Flight Engineers Oleg Artemyev, Denis Matveev, Sergey Korsakov, Raja Chari, Kayla Barron, and Matthias Maurer; and Axiom Mission 1 astronauts (center row from left) Mark Pathy, Eytan Stibbe, Larry Conner, and Michael Lopez-Alegria. (NASA photograph)

“Axiom Space is incredibly proud of this mission and these astronauts, whose training rigor and commitment to a robust research portfolio set the standard for future private spaceflight,” said Michael Suffredini, President and CEO of Axiom Space. “The Ax-1 mission is a pathfinder, showing the value of this new method of access to orbit and progress toward Axiom Station, a next generation platform in which the benefits and products of life, work and research in space will be available to a greater number of people.”

Ax-1 is the first of several planned Axiom missions to the ISS and is an important step for Axiom Station, the first commercial space station that will serve as a global academic and commercial hub. The success of Ax-1 provides valuable insight as Axiom Space works toward Axiom Mission 2 (Ax-2), the details of which Axiom Space is negotiating with NASA.

“The success of this first private astronaut mission to the International Space Station is an important step in opening opportunities for space travelers and achieving NASA’s goal of enabling commercial business off the planet in low-Earth orbit,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “This progress has been made possible by NASA’s work with private industry — especially the Commercial Crew Program. I’m incredibly proud of the NASA, SpaceX, and Axiom teams for safely completing this landmark mission. Welcome home, Ax-1!”

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 launched Dragon and the Ax-1 crew to the ISS on April 8. Seventeen days later, Dragon and the Ax-1 crew undocked from the space station at 9:10 p.m., EDT, April 24. The Ax-1 mission, the first all-private mission with a commercial spacecraft, highlights the important role of commercial companies to expand access to low-Earth orbit. Ax-1 represents the first of four private human spaceflights that Axiom Space has contracted with SpaceX to transport the crew to and from the orbiting laboratory.

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