The billionaires on the ISS didn’t expect to work so hard

Ax-1 Commander Michael López-Alegría records data for a research project conducted during the Ax-1 mission on the International Space Station.

Axis-1 commander Michael López-Alegría had to go online for a few hours during his stay on the ISS.
Photo: Eytan Stibbe/Espace Axiome

If you’re one of the few people lucky enough to be able to afford a $55 million ticket to space, chances are you’re not very used to hard labor. Members of fully private crew to the International Space Station recently reflected on their trip to low Earth orbit, complaining that they had too much work to do aboard the lab as it orbited our planet.

During a press conference on Friday, Axiom Space’s four-man Ax-1 mission crew admitted that they tried to fit their schedules too much, which ended up putting them under strain. ordeal as well as the crew of astronauts who were already living and working on the station, SpaceNews reports.

“Essentially, the arrival of Axiom personnel appeared to have a greater than expected impact on the daily workload of the professional crew of the International Space Station,” said Susan Helms, former NASA astronaut and member of the Aerospace Security Advisory Group, during a roundtable on Thursday.

The crew arrived on the ISS on April 9, taking with them an impressive experimental payload including experiments on holoportation, human cells and high-precision optical lenses. But given that it was their first time in space and that they are neither professional astronauts nor researchers, some of the experiments ended up taking much longer than expected. According to entrepreneur and investor Larry Connor, who was a member of the Ax-1 mission, an experiment that was supposed to take just two and a half hours based on pre-flight training ended up taking up double that time.

“Our schedule was very aggressive, especially at the start of the mission,” said Michael López-Alegría, a former NASA astronaut who commanded the mission. “The pace was frantic at the start.”

The mission was originally scheduled to last eight nights, but ended up being widened to 15 days due to adverse weather delays. ISS newbies had no complaints about spending that extra time above Earth’s atmosphere, as it gave them some amazing views (one of the things they surely expected for the price of admission) . “It was a blessing to have extra time,” López-Alegría said. “I think we were so focused on research and outreach in the first 8 or 10 days in orbit that we needed more time to complete the experience with time to look out the window, get in in contact with friends and family, to simply enjoy the feeling. »

But their extended stay meant the ISS remained cramped, with 11 astronauts on board. Some of the science modules only allow four or fewer astronauts to conduct experiments at the same time, which means the Axiom-1 crew ended up slightly disrupting the schedules of regular ISS astronauts.

The company is already preparing for the launch of the second crew to the ISS, having sold three seats, including one for an astronaut from the United Arab Emirates, on a SpaceX Crew Dragon.

Axiom Space President Michael Suffredini referred to these issues as part of a discussion of “lessons learned” the private space company had with NASA and SpaceX following the first private crew mission to the ISS. “Over time we will reduce what the crew has to do,” Suffredini said at the press conference.

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