Axiom’s First Astronauts Return From International Space Station

Dragon splashdown with parachutes

Axiom Space’s first crew of private astronauts is back on Earth after a 17-day orbital trip that included a week of bonus time on the International Space Station. The mission ended at 1:06 p.m. ET (5:06 p.m. GMT) today when SpaceX’s Crew Dragon Endeavour splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Florida.

Former NASA astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria was the commander for the homeward trip, accompanied by three investors who each paid Axiom $55 million for their rides: Ohio real-estate and tech entrepreneur Larry Connor, who served as the mission pilot, plus Canada’s Mark Pathy and Israel’s Eytan Stibbe.

“Welcome back to planet Earth,” SpaceX’s mission control operator Sarah Gillis told the crew. “The Axiom-1 mission marks the beginning of a new paradigm for human spaceflight. We hope you enjoyed the extra few days in space.”

Axiom-1 began on April 8 with the Florida launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. The trip was originally supposed to last about 10 days, but concerns about weather in the splashdown zone delayed the descent. Because of the way their fares were structured, Axiom’s customers didn’t have to pay extra for the extension.

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Two Rockets at Cape Canaveral

An interesting photo-op took place at Launch Complex 39 at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida last week. On April 6th, two different rockets were photographed occupying neighboring launch pads – LC 39A and 39B. The former was occupied by the Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon capsule (visible in the foreground) that launched the first all-private mission to the International Space Station (ISS) on April 8th – the Axiom Mission 1 (Ax-1).

The latter was occupied by the NASA Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion Spacecraft that will be used to conduct the inaugural launch of the Artemis Program (Artemis I) this summer (seen in the background). This is the first time two different types of rockets and spacecraft occupied LC 39’s sister pads simultaneously. This will become the norm in the future as the KSC continues to grow and becomes a multi-user spaceport that launches government and commercial rockets.

Further Reading: NASA