SpaceX launcher: Here’s who’s aboard the first private ISS space shuttle

The passengers on this trip – which includes former NASA astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegría, who will manage the project as an Axiom employee, and three paying customers – are scheduled to take off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Wednesday at 12:05 ET . . They will ride in SpaceX Crew Dragon capsules, the same capsule that SpaceX has used to transport NASA astronauts to the ISS already. The capsule orbits on top of one of SpaceX’s 230-foot Falcon 9 rockets.

The capsule will then separate from the rocket and fly freely through space throughout Thursday as the spacecraft moves slowly closer to the ISS. It is planned to dock at the space station at three o’clock on Friday morning.

This expedition, called the AX-1, will mark the first time in history that civilians, or otherwise unprofessional astronauts, will fire on the ISS from US soil. And this is the first thing that Axiom, the company that organized and mediated this project with SpaceX, hopes will be many similar flights for everyone who can afford it.

The AX-1 mission is also only the second spaceflight flight for SpaceX, following the launch of four civilians in September 2021 in three days, a free-flying orbit that went even higher than the ISS.

During their eight-day stay at the space station, the crew of AX-1 will do some scientific experiments, break bread with the commercial astronauts already on board the space station, the size of a football field, and enjoy a vast view of our passing planet. below.

Who is in this project?

Lopez-Alegría, 63, made four space missions between 1995 and 2007 during his time at NASA. He left the space agency in 2012 and joined Axiom a few years later with the goal of returning to space – but as a private astronaut rather than a public member of the corps.

Axiom serves as an intermediary between paying customers who want to go on a multimillion-dollar thrill ride into space, book flights with SpaceX, negotiate with NASA, and receive training for prospective astronauts. Axiom hopes to make these flights a regular occurrence, as NASA agreed a few years ago to open the ISS to space travel and other commercial companies.

It is not clear what these trips cost the customer. Although previously published prices indicated that a trip to the ISS was $ 55 million per seat, Axiom declined to confirm that figure this week. “Axiom Space does not disclose financial terms,” ​​Axiom spokeswoman Bettina Inclan told CNN Business via email.

There are three paying customers on this flight. They are all rich white men who continue the development that plagues space travel for commercial purposes and its inaccessibility to more diverse groups of the population. The vast majority of people who have so far been able to afford to pay for space – whether it’s in SpaceX flights or underground flights like Blue Origin’s – have been white businessmen. It is a testament to how far reality is from the promised distant space dream that comes from pioneers who claim that space is “for everyone” and that marketing space will “democratize it” amid growing income inequality. Because the price level is so great, the space will remain accessible in the business of only a few elite groups for the foreseeable future. While the goal is to significantly reduce the cost of getting into the space, hopefully making ticket prices affordable for more people, it is not clear how or when that will happen.

Real estate thief Larry Connor

Larry Connor.

Larry Connor, 72, is a real estate thief from Dayton, Ohio. He founded The Connor Group, which develops in 16 markets across the country and owns more than $ 3.5 billion in assets, according to the company’s website. He is an avid adventurer, has competed in cars and climbed mountains.

He also has experience as a private pilot and has participated in aerobatics competitions and will be nominated pilot for this project. (It should be noted that Crew Dragon from SpaceX is completely autonomous, although space pilots practice to be ready to take over is something that goes wrong.)

“My journey really started seven or eight years ago. I’ve always been interested in space and I started thinking about it after reading about an American who went to Russia and went to Soyuz. [spacecraft]He said in an interview with the Dayton Society of Natural History last year, after his plans to fly the AX-1 were revealed.

Connor was probably one of the US citizens who booked flights to the ISS through Space Adventures, a company that has booked seats on board the Russian Soyuz spacecraft for tourists returning to the first half of 2000. This flight has always been coordinated with the Russian Space Agency and included official Russian astronauts. The AX-1 mission will be the first to include a crew composed exclusively of private astronauts.

Connor said he had decided to book the project for the “challenge”.

“We are going to train in accordance with professional astronaut standards,” he said.

Former CEO of the company, Mark Pathy

Mark Pathy.

Mark Pathy, 52, is the founder and CEO of the Canadian investment firm Mavrik Corp. Its website states that Mavrik has a “special emphasis on innovation, entrepreneurship and responsible investment,” although not many investment decisions are public. .

CB Insights, a private equity investor, registers only one known investment. It supported a Canadian startup called Ferme d’hiver, which states that it “offers artificial intelligence-driven automation in agriculture.”
Pathy is also the former CEO of a shipping company, Fednav, which is Pathy’s family business.
About the AX-1 expedition, Pathy told CTV News: “This is a lot of money. I feel very lucky to be able to afford a trip like this. Obviously not many people can do it. But at the same time I do not have it. between doing something like this or being active in charity. “

He added that it “has been a dream since I was a little kid and watched Captain Kirk bounce around the universe in Enterprise” to go into space.

Eytan Stibbe

Eytan Stibbe.

Eytan Stibbe, 64, is an Israeli businessman.

According to his biography Axiom, Stibbe, a former fighter pilot in the Israeli Air Force, founded Vital Capital a decade ago. Its website states that the company is investing in companies involved in sectors such as food and healthcare in developing areas, especially across Africa, for “high return potential”.

Axiom says Stibbe’s journey is taking place “in collaboration” with the Ramon Foundation, a non-profit organization on space education named after Israel’s first astronaut, Ilan Ramon, who died in the space shuttle Columbia disaster in 2003. Stibbes’ biography also states that he and Ramon shared a “close” friendship. Stibbe will be the only other Israeli to go into space.

He announced his decision to join the AX-1 crew at a ceremony in the Israeli presidential residence in 2020 and was met with criticism from Israeli newspapers, which pointed to alleged trafficking in Stibbe’s past, particularly related to allegations of human trafficking in military equipment. During his time at LR Group, an investment and development group he left in 2011, according to a representative of Stibbe.

In particular, reports suggest that Stibbe was involved in the sale of military aircraft in Angola, which was involved in a brutal civil war from 1970 to 2002.

The accusations are rooted in news from the Israeli news site Haaretz.

In a 2012 television interview, broadcast in Hebrew and translated by Israeli media and CNN Business, Stibbe also appeared to confirm his involvement.

“We helped Angola end the war by bringing them interceptors, two Su-27 fighter jets, from Uzbekistan,” he said. “Their presence in the country halted the flight that provided weapons, food and ammunition and the export of illegal diamonds from Angola. After a year or a year and a half, the war ended.”

A statement from CNN Business on behalf of Stibbe said: “LR Group’s business in Angola was almost exclusively about agricultural infrastructure, vocational training, water, airports and telecommunications.

It is added that LR Group has “received a request from [US-backed Angolan] government to help upgrade its airspace infrastructure in accordance with ICAO international standards, “and that the sale of aircraft has been carried out” through export licenses and has been perfectly legal. “

“In addition, the aircraft and flight control radars were used only for deterrence,” the statement said.

LR Group responded in a statement to CNN Business, saying “LR Group has been involved in the fields of health, telecommunications, food, agriculture, renewable energy and water, with the aim of developing the independence and economic and social well-being of municipalities. people all over the world. “

“During the time that Stibbe was a partner in the company, he worked as a partner responsible for the operation and financing of the company’s business operations in Angola,” the statement said. “After leaving the company, he bought the business in Angola in 2012 and continued to operate there.”

LR Group is currently in a legal dispute over allegations against Stibbe when he was a partner in the company.

Stibbe’s representatives declined to comment on the lawsuit.

Regarding his decision to go into space, Stibbe said, “as a kid on a dark night, I looked at the stars and waited patiently to see a star fall, and I asked myself, ‘What is beyond what the eyes see? he said in comments translated by i24NEWS.

With his presentation scheduled for this week, Stibbe will soon find out.

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