Larry Connor, Michael Lopez-Alegria (former NASA astronaut), Mark Pathy and Eytan Stibbe
These are the private astronauts who are paying $55 million to ride a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket to the International Space Station next year, in what will be the first privately crewed mission.
Paying crew members Larry Conor, Mark Pathy and Eytan Stibbe, will be led on the mission by retired NASA astronaut Michael López-Alegría, who has traveled to space four times and is now the vice president of Aximo Space.
Connor is the managing partner of a real estate investment firm based in Ohio, Pathy is the chief executive of Canadian investment firm Mavrik Corp, and Stibbe is a businessman and former Israeli Air Force fighter pilot.
The trip will be conducted in collaboration between Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Aximo Space, which is coordinating the mission. The two announced their partnership in March 2020.
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Larry Connor, Michael Lopez-Alegria (former NASA astronaut), Mark Pathy and Eytan Stibbe are to be the first space crew of Axoim Space that will soar the the International Space Station for an eight day mission next years. Lopez-Alegria is the vice president of Axoim
The trip will be conducted in collaboration of the Elon Musk-owned SpaceX and Aximo Space, which is coordinating the mission – the two announced their partnership in March 2020. The first crew will spend eight days at the space stations1
The first private crew will spend eight days at the space station, and will take one or two days to get there aboard a SpaceX Dragon capsule following liftoff from Cape Canaveral.
SpaceX and Axoim had initially set this January for the first crew flight, but is now shooting for January 2022.
At the time of the partnership announcement, the firm said it had secured one seat on the craft, but today the ship has two more passengers.
Real estate mogul Larry Connor to be the first private mission pilot in space history
The 70-year-old Connor will become the second-oldest person to fly in space, after John Glenn’s shuttle flight in 1998 at age 77.
He will also serve under Lopez-Alegria as the capsule pilot, making him the first private astronaut mission pilot in the history of space travel.
‘I believe space is the last great frontier,’ Connor said.
‘I’m thrilled and honored to be a part of this historic mission.’
‘That’s what I’m excited about.’
‘It’s not about being the first pilot. It’s about doing things that can only be done in space – experiments in microgravity. It’s a unique way to help humankind.’
Connor made his first fortune in computer equipment in the 1980s and 90s, before founding the Connor Group real estate investment firm in 2003.
From left, crew members Eytan Stibbe, Michael Lopez-Alegria, Mark Pathy, and Larry Connor
Montreal businessman Mark Pathy initially feared the private spaceflight offer was a scam
Pathy, 51, is the father of three young children. He has dreamed of traveling in space all his life, but was skeptical when he first heard about the opportunity.
‘I wasn’t sure it was completely real, and I’d never heard of this company, Axiom,’ he told the Washington Post.
‘I obviously was not going to blast off in a rocket if this was some sort of Mickey Mouse travel outfit. But the more I inquired and the more I spoke with them directly, the more I realized they were the real deal. It was really possible.
‘And that moment where you think, ‘Holy cow, this is something I could actually do,’ it’s a bit of a surreal moment.’
Pathy plans to with the Canadian Space Agency and the Montreal Children’s Hospital on health-related research projects during the mission.
Retired Israeli fighter pilot Eytan Stibbe was friends with astronaut who died on Columbia shuttle disaster
Stibbe, 63, flew combat missions for the Israeli Air Force and later went on to found investment firm Vital Capital.
He is aware of the risks of spaceflight, not least because he was a close friend of Israel’s first astronaut, Ilan Ramon.
Ramon died when the space shuttle Columbia came apart on reentry in 2003.
‘Obviously there’s some fear, and this is definitely extreme. And then there are risks, and I’m aware of the risks,’ Stibbe told the Post.
Stibbe plans to conduct scientific research coordinated by the Ramon Foundation and the Israeli Space Agency.
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 following liftoff from Cape Canaveral
Axiom CEO Michael Suffredini says the flight is a ‘watershed moment in the march toward universal and routine access to space.’
‘These guys are all very involved and doing it for kind of for the betterment of their communities and countries, and so we couldn’t be happier with this makeup of the first crew because of their drive and their interest,’ Suffredini said.
Each of these first paying customers intends to perform science research in orbit, he said, along with educational outreach.
Lopez-Alegria, a former space station resident and spacewalking leader, called the group a ‘collection of pioneers.’
Each of the private astronauts had to pass medical tests and will get 15 weeks of training, according to Suffredini.
Axiom plans about two private missions a year to the space station. It also is working to launch its own live-in compartments to the station beginning in 2024.
This section would be detached from the station once it’s retired by NASA and the international partners, and become its own private outpost.
Russia has been in the off-the-planet tourism business for years, selling rides to the International Space Station since 2001.
Eight space tourists have so far gone to the ISS on Russian Soyuz rockets with the company Space Adventures.
The first was Dennis Tito, who paid $20 million for an eight-hour stay on the ISS back in 2001. The last to go was Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberte, in 2009.
Other space companies like Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin plan to take paying customers on up-and-down flights lasting just minutes. These trips – much more affordable with seats going for hundreds of thousands versus millions – could kick off this year.
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