NASA delays the launch of its first space tourism mission to the ISS

Three amateur astronauts eager to get to the International Space Station (ISS) will have to wait a bit longer than expected after NASA moved the mission’s planned launch date from late February to late March.

Texas-based Axiom Space – the organizer of what will be NASA’s first space tourism trip to the ISS – said the mission team is now aiming for March 31 due to “additional gear preparations and space station traffic,” suggesting that more spacecraft will be maneuvering around the ISS in late February and early March.

Ax-1, the very first private astronaut mission in @Space station, is now targeting a March 31 launch due to additional spacecraft preparations & space station traffic. The multinational crew will conduct science, outreach, &; commercial activities during their 8 days on ISS. pic.twitter.com/s9qsnS7gE8

— Axiom Space (@Axiom_Space) January 20, 2022

The Ax-1 space tourism mission – or “private astronaut” mission as NASA prefers to call it – will last about a week and will be led by Canadian investor and philanthropist Mark Pathy, American entrepreneur Larry Connor and l ex-Israeli Air Force pilot Eytan Stibbe. Former NASA astronaut Michael López-Alegría will round out the crew, flying as mission commander.

Ax-1 will use a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket to launch the crew into space, with its trusty Crew Dragon spacecraft ferrying all four crew members to and from the ISS.

Pathy, Connor and Stibbe would pay around $55 million each for the space tourism trip, during which they will work on research and philanthropic projects that will likely include various health-related activities.

The mission is part of plans by NASA and its Russian counterpart, Roscosmos, to commercialize the ISS in a bid to raise funds while increasing access to space for private, albeit very wealthy, citizens.

While Ax-1 will be NASA’s first experience overseeing a space tourism mission, Roscosmos has been operating such missions on and off for years.

Her most recent sightseeing mission was in December when she used a Soyuz spacecraft to whisk two Japanese space tourists to the ISS, with the pair returning to Earth after 12 days in space.

American Dennis Tito became the first private citizen to reach space in 2001 after paying $20 million for a ride to the ISS aboard a Soyuz spacecraft.

SpaceX could also expand its orbital tourist trips that send amateur astronauts into space for several days but do not dock with the space station. The first such mission took place last September when it sent four private citizens into orbit for three days in a Crew Dragon spacecraft.

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