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The completely private SpaceX astronaut mission will return home from the ISS after a week’s delay

The mission, called the AX-1, was brokered by Axiom Space, a startup in Houston, Texas, which reserves rocket missions, provides all the necessary training and coordinates ISS flights for anyone who can afford it.

Four crew members – Michael López-Alegría, a former NASA astronaut who became an Axiom mission commander; Israeli businessman Eytan Stibbe; Canadian investor Mark Pathy; and real estate mogul Larry Connor of Ohio – are due to leave the space station aboard their Capsule SpaceX Crew Dragon on Sunday at 20:55 ET. This is another 24-hour delay compared to what NASA and Axiom focused on Saturday.

According to a tweet from Kathy Lueders, NASA’s space flight program manager, they now plan to spend the day in free flight in orbit before crashing back into the atmosphere and parachuting to land off the coast of Florida around 1:00 p.m. ET. . The AX-1, which launched on April 8, was originally billed as a 10-day mission, but the delay extended the mission by about a week. During the first 12 days on the space station, the group followed an organized plan that included about 14 hours a day of activities, including scientific research, which was designed by various research hospitals, universities, technology companies and others. They also spent time in awareness-raising events with children and students. The weather delay then gave them “a little more time to absorb the remarkable views of the blue planet and take advantage of the vast amount of work that was successfully completed during the mission,” says Axiom. It is not clear how much this mission cost. Axiom previously announced a $ 55 million seat price for a 10-day trip to the ISS, but the company declined to comment on the financial terms of the particular mission, except that it said at last year’s press conference that the price was in the tens of millions. ” coordination between Axiom, SpaceX and NASA, as the ISS is funded and operated by the government, and the space agency has revealed some details about how much it charges for using its 20-year-old orbital lab.

For each mission, bringing in the necessary support from NASA astronauts will cost commercial customers $ 5.2 million, and all of the support and mission planning that NASA will lend is an additional $ 4.8 million. Food alone in space costs an estimated $ 2,000 per day per person. Getting supplies to and from the space station for a commercial crew costs an additional $ 88,000 to $ 164,000 per person per day.

The extra days the AX-1 crew spent in space due to the weather do not add to their personal total price, according to NASA.

“Recognizing that the International Space Station’s mission objectives, such as a recent Russian spacewalk or weather problems, could lead to delayed disconnections, NASA has negotiated a strategy that does not require compensation for additional disconnection delays,” declaration.

This is not the first time that paying customers or other than astronauts have visited the ISS, because Russia has sold seats in its Soyuz spacecraft to various wealthy thrill seekers in recent years.

But the AX-1 is the first manned mission composed entirely of private citizens without active members of the government corps of astronauts, who accompany them in a capsule during the journey to the ISS and back. It is also the first time private citizens have traveled to the ISS on a US-made spacecraft.

The mission has launched another round of debate over whether people paying for space travel should be referred to as “astronauts”, although it should be noted that a trip to the ISS requires a much larger investment of both time and money than a short suborbital ride. on a rocket built by companies like Blue Origin or Virgin Galactic. López-Alegría, a veteran of four space travel from 1995 to 2007 during his time at NASA, said: “This mission is very different from what you may have heard about in some recent – especially suborbital – missions. We are not space tourists. I think space tourism plays an important role, but that’s not what Axiom is all about. an international group of astronauts from 38 countries. López-Alegría presented Stibbe, Pathy and Connor with their badges during a welcoming ceremony after the group arrived at the space station.