The first fully private space mission to the International Space Station, consisting of three businessmen and a former NASA astronaut, left the flying laboratory where they spent more than two weeks for Earth.
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A SpaceX capsule undocked from the Space Station (ISS) at 21:10 US Eastern Time (01:10 GMT Monday) to begin the return journey. She is scheduled to land off the coast of Florida around 1:00 p.m. (5:00 p.m. GMT) on Monday.
The four men — three clients, each paying tens of millions of dollars, and former Hispanic-American astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria — were originally scheduled to spend just eight days on the ISS.
But their departure had to be postponed several times due to poor weather conditions.
American Larry Connor, head of a real estate company, Canadian Mark Pathy, head of an investment company, and ex-Israeli pilot Eytan Stibbe, co-founder of an investment fund, took off from Florida on April 8th. They had arrived on the ISS the next day.
On board, they conducted a whole series of experiments in cooperation with research centers. These focused on aging or heart health. They were also able to try out a headset that records cognitive performance in zero gravity, according to the station’s logbook published in a NASA blog.
Canadian Mark Pathy also spent a lot of time in the famous observation dome of the ISS to photograph the earth.
The mission was christened Ax-1, and it was the Axiom Space company that acted as the space agency: they bought SpaceX’s transportation assets and rewarded NASA for using their station.
NASA has already officially approved the principle of a second mission, AX-2.
After the departure of Ax-1, seven people remain on board the station: three Americans, one German and three Russians.
Monday will be the fifth landing of a manned Dragon capsule. SpaceX now regularly transports NASA astronauts to the ISS.
Elon Musk’s company did another very private mission last year, but it didn’t go to the space station, the four passengers on board just stayed in the capsule for three days.