The crew of four on Axiom Mission 1, including Montreal entrepreneur Mark Pathy, arrived at the International Space Station on Saturday aboard the first all-private charter flight to the ISS.
SpaceX launched its Crew Dragon spacecraft from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., on Friday for the 10-day mission, with passengers scheduled to spend eight days on the space station.
Financier and philanthropist Pathy, Ohio real estate and technology entrepreneur Larry Connor, and Israeli businessman Eytan Stibbe each paid $55 million to fly the rocket and stay on the ISS. They are joined by retired NASA astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria, who works for Houston-based startup Axiom Space Inc.
The mission involves a series of scientific experiments. Pathy has said he will help test something called holoportation, a new technology that uses virtual reality for communication.
He and a colleague from mission control on the ground will use VR headsets to share their experiences. Pathy will also take part in surveys of the Earth from space.
Canadian businessman Pathy, 52, is seen shortly after boarding the International Space Station in this image, taken from a NASA livestream of the launch of the first all-private mission to the ISS. (NASA)
The spacecraft was scheduled to dock with the Harmony module spaceside port at approximately 7:45 a.m. ET. However, docking was delayed by about 45 minutes while NASA resolved an issue getting a video feed from Dragon.
The newcomers brought with them two dozen scientific and biomedical experiments to be conducted aboard the ISS, including research on brain health, cardiac stem cells, cancer and aging, and a technology demonstration of making optics using the surface tension of liquids in microgravity.
They will join the existing ISS occupants of seven regular, government-paid space station crew members – three American astronauts, one German astronaut from the European Space Agency and three Russian cosmonauts.
The new mission, a collaboration between Axiom, Elon Musk’s rocket company SpaceX, and NASA, has been touted by all three as a major step in the expansion of space-based commercial activity, which insiders collectively refer to as the low-earth-orbit economy, or “LEO” for short. economy”.
NASA officials say this trend will help the US space agency focus more of its resources on exploring big science, including its Artemis program to send humans back to the moon and eventually to Mars.