Credit: SpaceX

The Axiom Mission 1 (Ax-1) crew and the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft safely splashed down off the coast of Florida at 1:06 p.m. ET, Monday, April 25. The Ax-1 crew’s arrival back to Earth officially concludes the first all-private astronaut mission to the International Space Station (ISS), successfully demonstrating Axiom Space’s ability to integrate with the ISS and conduct meaningful research.  

During their 17-day mission, Ax-1 Commander Michael López-Alegría, Pilot Larry Connor, and Mission Specialists Eytan Stibbe and Mark Pathy worked aboard the orbiting laboratory for 15 days. They flew approximately 6.3 million miles, about 240 orbits of Earth. Among the many highlights: 

Ax-1 supported 26 science payloads and technology demonstrations that had been curated with leading academic and research partners around the globe, including the Mayo Clinic, Montreal Children’s Hospital, Cleveland Clinic, and the Ramon Foundation, as well as research investigations from Axiom’s partners such as studying self-assembling technology for future space habitats, devices to purify air on space stations, and more; 

The Axiom astronauts served as research subjects to better understand the impacts of microgravity on the human body, as well as methods for maintaining connectedness to loved ones on Earth during space travel; and  

The Ax-1 crew shared the excitement of expanded access to space with a new generation of space explorers, participating in over 30 STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) engagements. Outreach efforts were conducted in English, Hebrew, Spanish, French, and Arabic 

In keeping with the mission’s emphasis on scientific discovery, within hours of splashdown and recovery, the astronauts will take part in post-flight studies such as providing biomedical and physiological data for researchers at the Translational Research Institute for Space Health to gauge the effects of spaceflight on the human body, including changes in vision, balance, and perception.

“Axiom Space is incredibly proud of this mission and these astronauts, whose training rigor and commitment to a robust research portfolio set the standard for future private spaceflight,” said Michael Suffredini, President and CEO of Axiom Space. “The Ax-1 mission is a pathfinder, showing the value of this new method of access to orbit and progress toward Axiom Station, a next generation platform in which the benefits and products of life, work and research in space will be available to a greater number of people.”  

Ax-1 is the first of several planned Axiom missions to the ISS and is an important step for Axiom Station, the first commercial space station that will serve as a global academic and commercial hub. The success of Ax-1 provides valuable insight as Axiom Space works toward Axiom Mission 2 (Ax-2), the details of which Axiom Space is negotiating with NASA. 

“The success of this first private astronaut mission to the International Space Station is an important step in opening opportunities for space travelers and achieving NASA’s goal of enabling commercial business off the planet in low-Earth orbit,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “This progress has been made possible by NASA’s work with private industry – especially the Commercial Crew Program. I’m incredibly proud of the NASA, SpaceX, and Axiom teams for safely completing this landmark mission. Welcome home, Ax-1!” 

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 launched Dragon and the Ax-1 crew to the ISS on Friday, April 8. Seventeen days later, Dragon and the Ax-1 crew undocked from the space station at 9:10 p.m. ET, Sunday April 24. The Ax-1 mission, the first all-private mission with a commercial spacecraft, highlights the important role of commercial companies to expand access to low-Earth orbit. Ax-1 represents the first of four private human spaceflights that Axiom Space has contracted with SpaceX to transport the crew to and from the orbiting laboratory.

The crew provided the following statements on their return:

Michael López-Alegría, Ax-1 Commander, vice president of business development at Axiom Space, former NASA astronaut

"It's remarkable to think what was once a dream of visionaries is now a reality as we have officially opened a new era in human-spaceflight with Ax-1. This mission pushed the boundaries further and beyond and opened the door to a future that allows access to Space for a much broader and more international audience", noted Ax-1 Commander Michael López-Alegría. "The Ax-1 mission would not have been possible without the remarkable team of professionals at Axiom Space, NASA, SpaceX, training teams, our personal friends and family, and so many others who, through sheer passion, enthusiasm, hard work, and resilience helped us to succeed and navigate this uncharted path. On behalf of myself and the Ax-1 Crew, we thank you all. Going to Space is an amazing adventure, but more than anything else, it offers perspective in the most literal sense. You see the world differently and come home with a new frame of reference- a new way of looking at the world. I am personally grateful to have had this opportunity once again, particularly to have shared this experience with Larry, Eytan, and Mark - Thank you! It's an incredible honor to share this journey with you all. Plvs Vltra."

Larry Connor, Ax-1 Pilot, entrepreneur and non-profit activist investor:

“I feel like our training prepared us for the logistics of space travel and the research for which we were responsible. And I feel like some of my previous endeavors prepared me for some of the unknowns that come with space travel. But I don’t think there’s anything that can truly prepare humans for the sights and feelings that come with circling the globe every 90 minutes. The ISS is a technical marvel. It is complex and busy. The amount of groundbreaking research happening in this flying orbiting laboratory is really breathtaking. And this isn’t just for the United States, this is for all humanity. This was a humbling experience. I hope we’ve played a role – however small – in allowing future generations to have similar experiences,” said Connor.

Eytan Stibbe, Ax-1 Mission Specialist, impact investor and philanthropist:

"I've had the honor of being part of Ax-1, the first private crew mission to the International Space Station, and leading the Rakia Mission. The underlying goal of Rakia is to recognize the prospective benefits of space exploration, through it we all aspired to draw on the curiosity associated with human space travel and unleash its creative potential. It aspires to raise awareness of the importance of preserving Earth’s limited resources and fostering commitment to international collaborations and the advancement of space research" says Eytan Stibbe, Impact Investor, Philanthropist, and Ax-1 Mission Specialist. "During the mission days dozens of scientific experiments which were developed by Israeli researchers and scientists were conducted onboard the space station, and students, educators, researchers, intellectuals, and the general public were stimulated by the exposure to it, and to the demonstration of the use of Israeli technology. On the educational level, Rakia enabled live transmission of educational content to hundreds of thousands of Israeli students in Hebrew, for the very first time from the ISS. In addition, Rakia presented a unique opportunity to see Israeli art projects being formed and exhibited in space. Rakia Mission and the people behind it prove that "no dream is beyond reach". I am excited to see the impact of the mission continue for years to come and to meet the many partners that created this mission and contributed to its' success upon my return to Israel,” said Stibbe.

Mark Pathy, Ax-1 Mission Specialist, entrepreneur, investor, and philanthropist:

“Joining the Ax-1 mission to the International Space Station has provided me with a unique platform to contribute to science that aims to tackle important issues affecting life on Earth, as well as contribute to the new era of space exploration we have entered,” says Mark Pathy, investor, philanthropist and Ax-1 Mission Specialist. “Under the theme 'Caring for People and the Planet', I had the immense honour of collaborating with Canadian institutions and scientists who are paving the way for a better future. On orbit, I was able to take part in a total of 12 science research projects in partnership with six Canadian universities and their investigators, including clinician-researchers at The Montreal Children’s Hospital and Child Health Research at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre; as well as technology proof-of-concepts with two technology startups, among them the world’s first two-way holoportation demonstration. I also conducted Earth observation activities in partnership with the Royal Canadian Geographical Society and Western University. Last but not least, I experienced the wonders of space travel; of staring into space, literally; and of time spent aboard the ISS in the company of fellow astronauts from various missions, including my Ax-1 crew mates -- this was truly a life-altering experience that delivered well beyond my expectations. I return to Earth a changed person,” said Pathy.

Axiom Space is guided by the vision of a thriving home in space that benefits every human, everywhere. The leading provider of human spaceflight services and developer of human-rated space infrastructure, Axiom operates end-to-end missions to the ISS today while privately developing its successor – a permanent commercial destination in Earth’s orbit that will sustain human growth off the planet and bring untold benefits back home.

Source: Axiom

Kris Christiaens's Avatar

Kris Christiaens

This article was published by FutureSpaceFlight founder and chief editor Kris Christiaens. Kris Christiaens has been passionate and fascinated by spaceflight and space exploration all his life and has written hundreds of articles on space projects, the commercial space industry and space missions over the past 20 years for magazines, books and websites. In late 2021, he founded the website FutureSpaceFlight with the goal of promoting new space companies and commercial space projects and compiling news of these start-ups and companies on one website.