The all-civilian Ax-1 mission crew docked at the International Space Station early Saturday morning, making it the first time that private citizens have visited the spaceship.
Ax-1’s four crew members are not government spaceflyers. It is the first entirely private crewed flight to the space station.
“Together, a new chapter begins,” Axiom Space’s Jon Rackham said during a webcast of the launch. “Godspeed, Ax-1!”
Following a roughly 21-hour flight from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center, SpaceX’s Dragon Spacecraft, carrying the four-person crew, arrived at ISS shortly before 8:30 a.m. EST.
Docking was initially delayed by 45 minutes due to some technical issues.
“Mission teams worked to route video using a SpaceX ground station to the crew on the space station, allowing Dragon to proceed with docking,” a press release states.
The space station astronauts welcomed the Ax-1 crew in a video broadcast on Twitter by Axiom Space, the Houston-based firm that planned the trip. They will spend the following eight days aboard the space station.
Michael López-Alegra, a retired NASA astronaut who now serves as Axiom Space’s vice president of business development, leads the Ax-1 crew. He’s accompanied by three paying customers: Larry Connor, an American real estate investor, Mark Pathy, a Canadian entrepreneur, and Eytan Stibbe, an Israeli fighter pilot. According to sources, Connor, Pathy, and Stibbe each paid $55 million for the spectacular trip.
The crew will participate in science experiments and charity projects on the space station, including health-related studies for the Mayo Clinic and the Montreal Children’s Hospital.
According to Axiom Space, the voyage is a “precursor” to commercialising low-Earth orbit, and the company plans to fly at least three more commercial flights to the space station. In addition, it also intends to build its own privately funded space station in orbit.