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NASA clears Axiom crew for 1st private mission to International Space Station

Axiom Space's first private crewed mission to the International Space Station is scheduled to launch on Feb. 28, 2022. From left to right: pilot Larry Connor, mission commander and retired NASA astronaut Michael López-Alegría, mission specialist Mark Pathy and mission specialist Eytan Stibbe.
Axiom Space's first private crewed mission to the International Space Station is scheduled to launch on Feb. 28, 2022. From left to right: pilot Larry Connor, mission commander and retired NASA astronaut Michael López-Alegría, mission specialist Mark Pathy and mission specialist Eytan Stibbe. (Image credit: Axiom Space)

The astronauts launching with the first private crewed mission to the International Space Station (ISS) next year have cleared all their medical evaluations. 

NASA and its international partners approved the four-person crew for Axiom Mission 1 (Ax-1), which is scheduled to launch on Feb. 28, 2022. The Ax-1 crew includes Michael López-Alegría, Larry Connor, Mark Pathy and Eytan Stibbe, according to a statement from NASA. The crew was approved by NASA and the Multilateral Crew Operations Panel, a coalition of five international space agencies that decides who flies to the International Space Station and each crew member's role for the mission. 

"We've made great progress on our 1st private astronaut mission with @Axiom_Space to @Space_Station! Axiom Mission 1 astronauts Michael López-Alegría, Larry Connor, Mark Pathy and Eytan Stibbe cleared medical evals and are approved by the Multilateral Crew Operations Panel," Kathy Lueders, associate administrator of NASA's Space Operations Mission Directorate, said in a tweet

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Receiving approval from the Multilateral Crew Operations Panel and passing medical evaluations represent major milestones in sending the first private astronaut mission to the orbiting lab, according to the NASA statement.

Connor will serve as the Ax-1 pilot, López-Alegría will be mission commander and Pathy and Stibbe will be mission specialists. López-Alegría is Vice President of Axiom Space and a former NASA astronaut who has flown to space four times before, including commanding ISS Expedition 14. Connor is an American entrepreneur and non-profit activist investor. Pathy is a Canadian businessman and philanthropist, and Stibbe is an investor and former Israeli Air Force pilot. 

The crew will be taking part in microgravity experiments during their eight-day mission aboard the ISS. A total of 25 experiments will focus on science, education and outreach, including research on the impact of space travel on senescent cells and heart health. Some of the planned research projects stem from Connor's long-time partnerships with Mayo Clinic and Cleveland Clinic, according to Axiom

Recently, NASA also gave the green light for a second Axiom crewed mission to the space station. That flight, known as Ax-2, is currently aiming to launch from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida between in late 2022 or early 2023. Axiom has contracted with SpaceX to launch four crewed missions to the ISS using Crew Dragon capsules and Falcon 9 rockets. 

Ax-1 is part of the Houston-based company's long-term plan to expand access to low Earth orbit; Axiom is one of several companies working to build a commercial space station to succeed the ISS. 

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Samantha Mathewson joined Space.com as an intern in the summer of 2016. She received a B.A. in Journalism and Environmental Science at the University of New Haven, in Connecticut. Previously, her work has been published in Nature World News. When not writing or reading about science, Samantha enjoys traveling to new places and taking photos! You can follow her on Twitter @Sam_Ashley13.