They will find the ground of the cows. The first entirely private space mission to go to the International Space Station, made up of three businessmen and a former NASA astronaut, is due to leave the flying laboratory where they spent more than two weeks on Sunday, direction Earth.
A SpaceX capsule is due to undock from the space station (ISS) at 8:55 p.m. Eastern US time (2:55 a.m. Monday Paris time), and begin the return trip to a splashdown off the coast of Florida, scheduled for Monday around 1:00 p.m. (7:00 p.m. Paris time).
The four men – three clients who paid tens of millions of dollars each, and former Spanish-American astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria – were originally scheduled to spend only eight days on the ISS. But their departure had to be postponed several times due to bad weather conditions.
The American Larry Connor, at the head of a real estate company, the Canadian Mark Pathy, boss of an investment company, and the ex-Israeli pilot Eytan Stibbe, co-founder of an investment fund, had taken off on April 8 from Florida. They had arrived on the ISS the next day.
On board, they carried out a whole series of experiments, in partnership with research centres. These focused on aging or heart health. They were also able to try out a headset recording cognitive performance in weightlessness, according to the Station’s logbook, published on a NASA blog.
The Canadian Mark Pathy also spent a lot of time in the famous observation cupola of the ISS, in order to photograph the Earth. The mission was baptized Ax-1, and it was the company Axiom Space which acted as a space travel agency: it bought the means of transport from SpaceX, and remunerated NASA for the use of its station. .
NASA has already formally approved the principle of a second mission, AX-2. After the departure of Ax-1, seven people will remain on board the station: three Americans, one German, and three Russians. Monday will be the fifth landing of a manned Dragon capsule. SpaceX now regularly transports NASA astronauts to the ISS.
Elon Musk’s company also carried out another entirely private mission last year, but this one did not go to the Space Station, the four passengers on board simply remained in the capsule for three days.