SpaceX and NASA Launch First Private Mission to International Space Station

By: Amelia Dasari — Online Editor-in-Chief

Four private astronauts are heading to the International Space Station following the successful launch of Axiom Mission 1 on April 8th 2022. 

The passengers include Michael Lopez-Alegría, a former NASA astronaut turned Axiom employee who is commanding the mission and customers Eytan Stibbe, Mark Pathy, and Larry Connor. The 3 customers payed $5.5 million for a 10-day trip to the ISS. 

The mission is the first from NASA to feature only private astronauts, and may open doorways to commercial and leisure space travel. 

The Axiom mission is also SpaceX’s sixth human spaceflight in nearly two years, following four NASA astronaut missions to the space station and the Inspiration 4 launch in September that sent an all-civilian crew into orbit for the first time. 

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson says the launch is historic and a new opportunity for NASA, “What a historic launch! Thank you to the dedicated teams at NASA who have worked tirelessly to make this mission a reality.” 

Nelson adds that “NASA’s partnership with industry through the commercial cargo and crew programs has led our nation to this new era in human spaceflight — one with limitless potential.” 

Senior Biana Fridberg is excited about the launch and believes that it opens many doors for NASA. “This is the kind of stuff that you see in movies. The fact that it is real life is astonishing to me.”

Fridberg adds that the mission is very inspiring. “I have been interested in space my whole life, so to see something like this happen not only is super cool but inspiring.”

Senior Dana Blatte says she was surprised when she first heard about the launch. “I never thought space travel for “entertainment” purposes would happen. So it is pretty cool to see it become a reality.”

The four astronauts have specific goals and plans for their 10-day trip. Connor will be researching how spaceflight affects senescent cells. The research will be done in partnership with the Cleveland Clinic and the Mayo Clinic. 

According to Axiom, Stibbe will also do some research and focus on “educational and artistic activities to connect the younger generation in Israel and around the globe.”

Pathy is also planning to do some medical research. He will be focusing more on children’s health and will be working with Canadian hospitals to do so.

Blatte also adds that it is cool how the astronauts are planning to do actual work in space, specifically medical-related research. “I was a bit surprised when I heard that [the astronauts] would be doing research in space. I for one never knew that it was possible, so it is pretty fascinating to hear.”

The astronauts are returning to earth on April 19th in South Florida. 

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