Four private astronauts made history today (April 25) by safely diving to Earth after completing the first fully private manned mission aboard the International Space Station.
Today, a SpaceX Dragon capsule crashed 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 for Axiom Space, told Space.com during the press conference today. “Everyone understood that it was possible. You can put four citizens on a spaceship and send them to the ISS, but can you train them in an abbreviated period of time? Can you prepare them for the mission in a way that minimizes the impact on the ISS crew? ?”
“These are the questions [people ask]and I think we proved that we could do that,” added Hassmann.
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The crew that crashed 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’ll come out of this with a lot of important lessons learned,” Hassmann said. He added that he has already begun discussing lessons learned from the Ax-1 with Peggy Whitson, director of human spaceflight at Axiom Space, retired NASA astronaut and mission commander for 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 her conversations with Whitson. “And a lot of that has to do with training… based on the experiences the crew has had on this mission, what are the specific things we could focus on that will make the crew better prepared, especially for the very intense first few days several days.” where they are, you know, still getting their space legs.”
But while Hassmann shared how the team plans to improve with future missions, with the Ax-1, “we’ve proven it’s possible,” he said.
“We’ve proven 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’re going to do even better next time,” added Hassmann.
Ax-2 is scheduled to be released later this year. These missions, the company said, 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.