Private Ax-1 astronauts on SpaceX capsule to mint NFT artwork in space

Ax-1 crewmembers receive the signal they can lift the visors on their helmets shortly after their launch toward the International Space Station on April 8, 2022.
Ax-1 crewmembers receive the signal they can lift the visors on their helmets shortly after their launch toward the International Space Station on April 8, 2022. (Image credit: Axiom Space)

The astronauts of the first-ever fully private crewed mission to the International Space Station will commemorate their groundbreaking flight with some digital artwork.

The Ax-1 mission, which was organized by Houston company Axiom Space, launched on Friday (April 8) and arrived at the orbiting lab on Saturday morning (April 9). The mission is flying on the SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour.

Ax-1 is commanded by Michael López-Alegría, a former NASA astronaut and current Axiom employee. He's joined by three Axiom customers — Larry Connor, Mark Pathy and Eytan Stibbe, each of whom reportedly paid about $55 million for the trip.

Live updates: Ax-1 private mission to space station
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The crewmembers will flex their artistic muscles during the 10-day mission. For example, López-Alegría "will create a piece from space, representing his own personal experience of the overview effect," Axiom representatives said in a statement Friday. (The overview effect is the transformational shift in perspective that many astronauts report experiencing after seeing Earth from high above.)

Pathy will create a digital piece that features his personal Ax-1 mission patch, and Stibbe will bring "an inspirational message of unity, peace and hope with digital artist Amit Shimoni," Axiom representatives said. 

"In addition to the crewmembers' personal art, famed artist Michael Kagan, known for his paintings and sculptures of iconic images of space exploration, has created exclusive pieces to commemorate the Ax-1 mission, including an augmented-reality 3D spacewalker," they added. 

You can see the spacewalker piece, a digital sculpture that Kagan made with the augmented-reality company Anima, here.  

These pieces and more will be available for purchase on Axiom Space's NFT marketplace, the existence of which the company announced on Friday as well. (NFTs, short for "non-fungible tokens," are pieces of data, stored in a digital ledger called a blockchain, that represent unique assets.)

"We're pleased to debut the official Axiom Space NFTs to the global space community," Tejpaul Bhatia, Axiom Space's chief revenue officer, said in the same statement. "It has been our mission to make the dream of traveling to space a reality for more of humanity, and our digital artwork offering is a first step in getting everyone involved." 

You can learn more at Axiom's NFT marketplace site.

Editor's note: This story was updated at 9:50 a.m. EDT (1350 GMT) on April 9 with news of Ax-1's successful docking.

Mike Wall is the author of "Out There" (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or on Facebook.  

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Mike Wall
Senior Space Writer

Michael Wall is a Senior Space Writer with and joined the team in 2010. He primarily covers exoplanets, spaceflight and military space, but has been known to dabble in the space art beat. His book about the search for alien life, "Out There," was published on Nov. 13, 2018. Before becoming a science writer, Michael worked as a herpetologist and wildlife biologist. He has a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from the University of Sydney, Australia, a bachelor's degree from the University of Arizona, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. To find out what his latest project is, you can follow Michael on Twitter.