NASA clears Axiom crew for first private mission to International Space Station


The astronauts who will launch the first private crewed mission to the International Space Station (ISS) next year have validated all of their medical assessments.

NASA and its international partners have approved the four-person crew for Axiom Mission 1 (Ax-1), scheduled for launch on February 28, 2022. The Ax-1 crew includes Michael López-Alegría, Larry Connor, Mark Pathy and Eytan Stibbe, according to a NASA statement. The crew was approved by Nasa and the Multilateral Crew Operations Panel, a coalition of five international space agencies that decides who flies to the International space Station and the role of each crew member for the mission.

“We made great strides on our first private astronaut mission with @Axiom_Space to @Space_Station! Axiom 1 mission astronauts Michael López-Alegría, Larry Connor, Mark Pathy and Eytan Stibbe have passed medical exams and are approved by the Multilateral Crew Operations Panel, “Kathy Lueders, Associate Administrator of the NASA Space Missions Directorate, said in a tweet.

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Receive approval from the Multilateral Crew Operations Panel and pass medical assessments represent major milestones in sending the first private astronaut mission to the orbiting laboratory, according to the NASA statement.

Connor will be the Ax-1 pilot, López-Alegría will be the mission commander, and Pathy and Stibbe will be the mission specialists. López-Alegria is vice president of Axiom Space and a former NASA astronaut who has completed four space flights, including commanding the ISS Expedition 14. Connor is an American entrepreneur and nonprofit activist investor. Pathy is a Canadian businessman and philanthropist, and Stibbe is an investor and former Israeli Air Force pilot.

The crew will participate in microgravity experiments during their eight-day mission aboard the ISS. A total of 25 experiments will focus on science, education and awareness, including research on the impact of space travel on senescent cells and heart health. Some of the planned research projects stem from Connor’s long-standing partnerships with the Mayo Clinic and the Cleveland Clinic, according to Axiom.

Recently, NASA also gave the green light to a second Axiom crewed mission at the space station. This flight, known as Ax-2, is currently intended to be launched from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida between late 2022 or early 2023. Axiom has contracted with SpaceX to launch four crewed missions to the ISS using Crew Dragon capsules and Falcon 9 rockets.

Ax-1 is part of the Houston-based company’s long-term plan to expand access to low earth orbit; Axiom is one of many companies working on the construction of a commercial space station to succeed the ISS.

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