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“Private space stations will be even more international than the ISS”

Astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria, February 15, 2022.

On April 6, from Kennedy Space Center (Florida), Ax-1, a fully private ten-day mission to the International Space Station (ISS), the first of its kind, is scheduled to take off. On board the vessel chartered by SpaceX, three passengers: American entrepreneur Larry Connor (pilot), Canadian entrepreneur Mark Pathy and Israeli philanthropist Eytan Stibbe (mission specialists), as well as commander Michael Lopez-Alegria. This 63-year-old American of Spanish origin, who has been in space for four years, is one of NASA’s most experienced astronauts, having commanded the ISS in 2006. However, he left the Space Agency American in 2012 to promote commercial manned spaceflight, then chairing the Commercial Spaceflight Federation. In 2016, he joined the company Axiom Space, which organizes private manned flights, for a ticket price estimated by the New York Times to 55 million dollars (about 49.4 million euros). Axiom Space, which, for commercial reasons, keeps secret how SpaceX, NASA and the states that finance the ISS are remunerated, aims to build its own space station.

You said you wanted set the bar very high for private astronaut missions. What do you mean ?

I want the kind of mission that Axiom pursues to distance itself from what the press calls “space tourism”. We are really imitating a mission of professional astronauts, and have done hard training. The only difference is the level of information about the ISS and the fact that passengers participate in a private capacity, not a governmental one. Like on NASA or European Space Agency missions, most of our time will be spent on science experiments and public engagements. This is a first, but we want it to become a standard, because it will make these pseudo-professional missions all the more respectable and acceptable by the very rigorous community of manned flights.

How was your training special?

My three colleagues did not have to familiarize themselves in detail with the ISS control systems, its electrical circuits, its software, nor with the mechanics of the toilets: it is not their job to operate the front -space station. However, they have reached a level of training that allows them to be safe on board, to take care of themselves, to react in the event of an emergency. The training focused on the 25 on-board experiences they prepared with their partner institutions, both academic and private. Larry Connor to study heart health in microgravity and the impact of the space environment on senescent cells [qui ont cessé de se diviser, et sont liées aux maladies dues à la vieillesse]. Mark Pathy will evaluate holoportation technologies [qui utilisent la communication en réalité mixte à l’aide d’hologrammes 3D] and study the neuro-ocular syndrome associated with spaceflight [dont souffrent nombre d’astronautes séjournant longtemps dans l’espace]. Eytan Stibbe will conduct experiments in optics, biology, agricultural sciences in particular, and interact with young people in Israel.

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