NASA hails a ‘significant milestone’ for building a ‘low-Earth orbit economy’ as it approves the crew for Axiom Space’s first private mission to the ISS

The AX-1 crew, left to right: Commander Michael López-Alegría, mission pilot Larry Connor, mission specialist Mark Pathy, mission specialist Eytan Stibbe.

NASA and its international partners approved the crew members for Axiom Space 2022 mission. 
The crew cleared medical examinations and is scheduled to launch to the ISS in March. 
NASA called the mission a step toward building a commercial economy in low-Earth orbit. 

NASA and its international partners approved the astronaut crew for Axiom Space’s first private mission to the International Space Station (ISS), which the agency called a “”significant milestone” in creating a “Low-Earth orbit economy.”

The crew members, who are not working astronauts, are scheduled to launch aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon spaceship on March 30 from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. 

Among the astronaut team is Michael López-Alegría, Larry Connor, Mark Pathy, and Eytan Stibbe. 

According to the agency, López-Alegría will serve as the mission commander. Dayton is due to serve as the pilot, while Pathy and Stibbe will act as mission specialists. 

The mission termed Ax-1 seeks to launch the four-man crew into orbit where they are scheduled to spend eight days aboard the orbiting laboratory. They will be “conducting science, education, and commercial activities,” before returning back to Earth, per the agency.

Phil McAlister, director of commercial spaceflight at NASA, said AX-1 would be a “significant milestone” in creating a “low-Earth orbit economy.”

Insider previously reported that Axiom plans to build its own orbital outpost called AxStation. It would start as an attachment to the ISS, then detach.

The agency expects to retire the ISS by 2030 but NASA and Congress both hope to have a commercial replacement by then which Ax-1 encourages. 

“The goal for the Ax-1 crew is to set a standard for all future private astronaut missions in terms of our preparation and professionalism,” López-Alegría said. 

According to NASA, the crew has been carrying out training at Johnson Space Center in Houston and other NASA facilities since August 2021. 

NASA and Axiom Space announced the mission last year, but the agency was reviewing the group, who have been undergoing medical reviews before being approved.

If the mission goes to plan, the crew will become the first private astronauts to enter the orbiting laboratory. 

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