Albuquerque Journal

Meet the first private space station crew

- BY MARCIA DUNN

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — The first private space station crew was introduced Tuesday: three men who are each paying $55 million to fly on a SpaceX rocket.

They’ll be led by a former NASA astronaut now working for Axiom Space, the Houston company that arranged the trip for next January.

“This is the first private flight to the Internatio­nal Space Station. It’s never been done before,” said Axiom CEO and President Mike Suffredini, a former space station program manager for NASA.

While mission commander Michael Lopez-Alegria is a former NASA astronaut, “the other three guys are just people who want to be able to go to space, and we’re providing that opportunit­y,” Suffredini told The Associated Press.

The first crew will spend eight days at the space station, and will take one or two days to get there aboard a SpaceX Dragon capsule after liftoff from Cape Canaveral.

Russia has been in the off-theplanet tourism business for years, selling rides to the Internatio­nal Space Station since 2001. Other space companies, such as Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, plan to take paying customers on upand-down flights lasting just minutes. These trips — much more affordable with seats going for hundreds of thousands versus millions — could begin this year.

Axiom’s first customers are Larry Connor, a real estate and tech entreprene­ur from Dayton, Ohio; Canadian financier Mark Pathy, and Israeli businessma­n Eytan Stibbe, a close friend of Israel’s first astronaut Ilan Ramon, who was killed in the space shuttle Columbia accident in 2003.

 ?? COURTESY OF AXIOM SPACE ?? From left, Larry Connor, Michael Lopez-Alegria, Mark Pathy and Eytan Stibbe.
COURTESY OF AXIOM SPACE From left, Larry Connor, Michael Lopez-Alegria, Mark Pathy and Eytan Stibbe.

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