Axiom Space and its crew are ready to make history.
A crew of three paying passengers and one former NASA astronaut will launch to the International Space Station on Wednesday (April 6) at 12:05 p.m. EDT (1605 GMT). The flight marks Texas-based aerospace company Axiom Space's Ax-1 mission, set to launch the crew aboard a SpaceX Dragon atop a Falcon 9 rocket. The 10-day mission will see the crew spend eight days aboard the orbiting lab, living and working on the station.
"This is opening a new era in human spaceflight," mission commander and retired NASA astronaut Michael López-Alegría said during a news conference today (April 1). "We are taking the first step in a next generation platform initiative that's going to bring working, living and research in space to a much broader and more international audience."
Live updates: Ax-1 private mission to space station
"It's been a real privilege to work and train alongside these three remarkable gentlemen," López-Alegría said. "We have spent countless hours in simulations, in technical training and hands-on training and they have brought unbelievable commitment, discipline and an eagerness to learn to the endeavor.
"I can say with zero hesitation that we are ready to fly," he said.
"The crew is very well trained, they've spent many hundreds of hours prepping for this flight," former NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson, who is now Axiom Space's director of human spaceflight, said during the same news conference.
"It's great to be here," Michael Suffredini, president and CEO of Axiom Space, said during the same news conference, "five days away from what is a truly historic mission to the International Space Station."
"This really does represent the first step, where a bunch of individuals who want to do something meaningful in low Earth orbit that aren't members of a government are able to take this opportunity," Suffredini added.
The Ax-1 crew includes mission commander and retired NASA astronaut Michael López-Alegría, pilot Larry Connor and mission specialists Eytan Stibbe and Mark Pathy.
"It has already been life changing for me, and we haven't even launched yet," Pathy said during the news conference. "So [I'm] really excited about what's still to come."
López-Alegría works as Axiom's vice president of business development; the three remaining passengers have paid a combined $55 million for their seats aboard the flight and are bringing a number of experiments to the station to conduct while in space.
Those experiments include an Israeli start-up's brain "headset" that Stibbe will carry with him as part of a series of experiments from the Ramon Foundation. Stibbe co-created the foundation in honor of his friend, Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon, who died aboard the space shuttle Columbia in 2003. Following Ramon, Stibbe will be only the second Israeli astronaut to reach space.
"I think I speak for all of us that we understand this first civilian mission is a big honor and a big opportunity," Connor said. "But with that comes a big responsibility — that is, to execute the mission correctly and successfully."
Stibbe added that "to be a part of this crew is a proof from me that there is no dream beyond reach."
Plenty of other experimental science and technology will be flying along with the "headset."
"It's a very complex flight, which is near and dear to my little geeky heart," Whitson said. "I love the fact that we're getting so much scientific research done on this mission."
And every aspect of the flight will inform future flights, she emphasized. "I know that, not only are we going to learn from the science that's being done," Whitson said, "but this precursor mission is important because not only are we developing the techniques that we're going to be using, communicating with the ground to space [from] here in Mission Control and Axiom, but we're also developing all the procedures and processes that make the spaceflight possible."
During the news conference, the mission's commander, López-Alegría, also shared his excitement for the mission ahead. "I think any time you get to go into space is an amazing opportunity," he said. "It's even sweeter for me, looking back on my career as a NASA astronaut."
Axiom aims for this launch to be "a precursor mission to the space station," Suffredini said today. In late 2024, the company plans to launch a module to attach to the ISS that is capable of detaching and flying free. The ultimate goal, Axiom has stated, is for this module to be the basis for an eventual commercial station in orbit.