Four private astronauts made history today (April 25), landing safely on Earth after completing the first fully private manned mission aboard the International Space Station.
Today, a SpaceX Dragon capsule went down off the coast of Jacksonville, Florida, ending the Ax-1 mission that Texas-based aerospace company Axiom Space launched from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on April 8. .
During a post-splashdown press conference today, representatives from Axiom and SpaceX shared their thoughts on how this historic mission could shape the future of private spaceflight.
“There were a lot of eyes on this mission, just to see if it was practical,” Derek Hassmann, director of operations at Axiom Space, told Space.com during today’s press conference. “Everyone understood that it was possible. You can put four private citizens on a spaceship and send them to the ISS, but can you train them in a short period of time? Can you prepare them for the mission in a way that minimizes the impact on the crew? of the ISS?
“Those are the questions [people ask]and I think we showed that we could do that,” Hassmann added.
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The crew members who splashed down today were mission commander Michael López-Alegría, a former NASA astronaut and current Axiom employee, and three paying customers: American Larry Connor, Canadian Mark Pathy and Israeli Eytan Stibbe.
“I think we’re going to come out of this with a lot of important lessons learned,” Hassmann said. He added that he has already begun discussing the lessons learned from Ax-1 with Peggy Whitson, director of human spaceflight for Axiom Space, a retired NASA astronaut and commander of the company’s next manned mission, Ax-2.
“She and I had a lot of conversations during the mission about things to do differently and things to do better for the next mission,” Hassmann said of his conversations with Whitson. “And a lot of this has to do with training … based on the experiences that the crew had on this mission, what are the specific things that we could focus on that will make the crew better prepared, especially for the very intense first stage? several days where, you know, they still have their space legs.”
But while Hassmann has shared how the team plans to improve on future missions, with Ax-1, “we proved that it’s possible,” he said.
“We showed that we can prepare the crew in a way that makes them effective and productive in orbit. And we’re ready to do it again. And we’ll do even better next time,” Hassmann added.
Ax-2 is currently scheduled for release later this year. These missions, the company has stated, are part of a larger plan to launch a series of modules to dock with the ISS that will one day serve as the basis for a fully commercial free-flying space station.