The space tourists team will be led by a former NASA astronaut who now works for the private aerospace company Axiom Space in Houston, Texas, USA. The trip is scheduled for January next year.
“This is the first private flight to the International Space Station (ISS). This has never been done before, ”said Axiom CEO and President Mike Suffredini, former NASA program manager for the space station.
While mission commander Michael Lopez-Alegria is well known in space circles, “the other three guys are just people who want to be able to go into space, and we provide that opportunity,” Suffredini told the Associated Press in an interview.
The first crew will spend eight days at the space station, and it will take one or two days to get there aboard the SpaceX Dragon capsule after taking off from Cape Canaveral.
Other space companies, such as Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, plan to accept paying customers for flights of just a few minutes. These trips – much more affordable, with seats costing hundreds of thousands versus millions – could begin this year.
Axiom’s early clients include Larry Connor, a real estate and technology entrepreneur based in Dayton, Ohio, Canadian financier Mark Pati and Israeli businessman Eitan Stibbe, a close friend of Israel’s first astronaut, Ilan Ramon, who died in the 2003 Columbia spaceship crash.
According to him, each of these first tourists to the ISS intends to conduct scientific research in orbit, as well as conduct educational activities.
Suffredini said each of the private astronauts had to undergo medical examinations and 15 weeks of training. Connor, 70, will become the second oldest person to fly into space after John Glenn’s space shuttle flight in 1998 at the age of 77. He will also serve under the command of Lopez-Alegria as a capsule pilot.