A few hours ago, SpaceX’s Crew Dragon Endeavour spacecraft concluded its Ax-1 mission by splashing down without problems. On board were Michael López-Alegría, Larry Connor, Eytan Stibbe, and Mark Pathy, who ended this completely private space mission in the Atlantic Ocean after leaving the International Space Station about 16 hours earlier. Shortly after splashing down, the SpaceX ship called the “Megan” went to retrieve the Endeavour and its crew to transport them to the coast.
Launched on April 8 to reach the International Space Station the day after, the private mission set up in collaboration between SpaceX and Axiom Space, and for this reason, called Axiom Mission 1 or simply Ax-1 is the first of its kind that had as its purpose the use of the Station for commercial purposes. Initially, this mission was supposed to last around 10 days but bad weather in the splashdown area caused a delay which lengthened it to around 15 days plus travel time. On the Station, there’s a large supply of food, water, and oxygen, necessary in case accidents with a space freighter or other problems cause delays in the arrival of supplies, so having 4 more people for a few extra days is not a problem.
This mission was also conducted with the collaboration of NASA, which broadcast some of the operations such as the Crew Dragon Endeavour spacecraft’s launch and arrival at the Station. The opening to companies for the use of the Station’s facilities for commercial purposes with the consequent development of private research is one of the programs carried out by NASA.
Axiom Space is one of the pioneering companies in setting up commercial work in orbit, and the Ax-1 mission is just the beginning. Long-term plans go up to the launch of modules produced by the company to be added to the International Space Station and in the end create a commercial space station.
In the short and medium-term, other commercial missions will be set up and there’s also talk of scenes for a movie to be shot on the Station with Tom Cruise as their protagonist. Axiom Space’s exact schedule hasn’t been disclosed and for now, we know that the next mission, indicated as Axiom Mission 2 or Ax-2, is scheduled to be conducted no earlier than fall 2022. For now, the Endeavour’s crew will undergo medical tests like all the astronauts.