Crew of first private flight to ISS returns to Earth – Times of India


WASHINGTON: The crew of the first all-private mission to the International Space Station left the orbiting lab on Monday to return to Earth.
The three businessmen and a former NASA astronaut had spent more than two weeks at the station on a landmark mission hosted by the startup company Axiom Space.
The SpaceX capsule disengaged from the ISS at 0110 GMT for the return journey and was due to land in the ocean off the coast of Florida around 1:00 PM local time (1700 GMT).
The four men — three of whom paid tens of millions of dollars for the rare opportunity to participate in the mission — were originally scheduled to spend just eight days on the space station.
However, bad weather on Earth caused repeated delays in their return.
Private passengers Larry Connor, a US citizen who heads a real estate company, Canadian businessman Mark Pathy and Israeli former fighter pilot and entrepreneur Eytan Stibbe had left Florida on April 8 and reached the ISS the following day.
Former astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria, who holds dual US-Spanish citizenship, is the fourth passenger.
Once aboard, the men conducted a series of experiments in collaboration with Earth-bound research centers, including heart health and cognitive performance in low gravity, according to a NASA blog.
Pathy spent a lot of time in the station’s famous observation dome, photographing the Earth from 400 kilometers above your head.
The mission was named Ax-1 in a nod to Axiom Space, which served as a sort of space travel agency, paying SpaceX for two-way transportation and NASA to use its orbiting accommodations.
In principle, NASA has already given the green light for a second mission: Ax-2.
The departure of the Ax-1 crew left seven people on the ISS: three Americans, one German and three Russians.
Monday’s sea landing of a manned SpaceX Dragon capsule will be the fifth to date.
SpaceX, owned by billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk, now regularly shuttles NASA astronauts to and from the space station.
Last year, Musk’s company launched another completely private mission, but it just orbited the Earth for three days and didn’t connect to the ISS.

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