NASA’s private Ax-1 crew gets some extra time in space

NASA’s first private astronauts at the International Space Station (ISS) are getting a bit of extra time in space for their multimillion-dollar fees.

Poor weather conditions at the landing site off the coast of Florida has prompted NASA to delay the departure from the ISS by about 12 hours. Calm sea conditions are needed to allow the recovery vessel to safely approach the capsule after it lands in the water.

The four-person Ax-1 crew — comprising Canadian investor and philanthropist Mark Pathy, American entrepreneur Larry Connor,  former Israeli Air Force pilot Eytan Stibbe, and retired NASA astronaut Michael López-Alegría — was originally set to leave the station aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft at 10:35 a.m. ET (7:35 a.m. PT) on Tuesday, April 19.

But, weather permitting, they will now depart at about 10 p.m. ET (7 p.m. PT) on the same day, with splashdown expected to take place at around 3:25 p,m. ET (12:25 p.m. PT) on Wednesday, April 20.

“Mission Control has informed the Expedition 67 and Axiom Mission 1 (Ax-1) crews aboard the International Space Station that because of unfavorable weather at the splashdown location for recovery of the Dragon Endeavour and the Ax-1 crew, the integrated operations team at NASA, Axiom Space, and SpaceX has postponed the spacecraft’s planned departure from the orbiting laboratory,” NASA said in a message posted online on Monday, April 18.

Assuming the Ax-1 crewmembers leave the station on Tuesday, they will have spent a total of 12 days in space in what was NASA’s first private astronaut mission as part of plans to commercialize low-Earth orbit. The mission was organized by Texas-based Axiom Space and used SpaceX hardware for transportation. Pathy, Connor, and Stibbe reportedly paid $55 million each for the experience.

During their brief stay aboard the orbiting outpost, the visitors conducted a range of scientific experiments, as well as outreach and commercial activities as they worked alongside their professional astronaut counterparts.

Last week, the Ax-1 crew answered questions about their time aboard the ISS.

Folks interested in watching the Ax-1 crew depart the station for their journey home can watch a livestream of events that will include the farewell ceremony aboard the ISS, hatch closure, and the undocking of the spacecraft.

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