NASA’s first private mission to the International Space Station has ended successfully after the four-person crew splashed down in a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule off the coast of Florida.
The four Ax-1 crewmembers — Canadian investor and philanthropist Mark Pathy, American entrepreneur Larry Connor, former Israeli Air Force pilot Eytan Stibbe, and former NASA astronaut Michael López-Alegría — came down in the Atlantic Ocean near Jacksonville, Florida, at 1:06 p.m. ET (10:06 p.m. PT) on Monday, April 25.
#Ax1: The First All-Private Crew to the @Space_Station pic.twitter.com/Ud4E81YePy
— Axiom Space (@Axiom_Space) April 25, 2022
The private astronauts were met by a recovery ship and taken back to shore before being helped out of the capsule. All were said to be in good condition following their 17-day mission, which turned out to be seven days longer than originally planned after poor weather at the landing site delayed their return.
The video below shows the final few minutes of the return journey with the parachutes deployed to slow the capsule’s descent.
“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,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in a release.
Organized by Texas-based Axiom Space and using SpaceX hardware, NASA’s first private mission to the ISS is said to have cost each participant about $55 million.
During their time aboard the orbiting outpost, the Ax-1 crew lived alongside the station’s current team of professional astronauts, conducting a range of scientific experiments, as well as outreach and commercial activities. While aboard the station, the Ax-1 crew answered questions about what it was like living and working 250 miles above Earth.
This wasn’t the first time for nonprofessional astronauts to visit the space station, though it was the first time for NASA to be involved. American Dennis Tito became the first private citizen to stay aboard the ISS in 2001 after reportedly paying $20 million to NASA’s Russiancounterpart, Roscosmos, for a ride aboard its Soyuz spacecraft.
And toward the end of last year, a Japanese billionaire businessman and his associate paid Roscosmos for a short stay aboard the space station.