NASA has previously confirmed the four civilian astronauts who will spend a week in April living and conducting experiments aboard the International Space Station. The mission is called Ax-1, and the crew has been preparing at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston and other NASA locations since August 2021.
The four astronauts will arrive onboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon spaceship, which will be operated by Axiom Space, a private space business creating its own ISS module.
NASA astronaut and Axiom Space VP Michael López-Alegra will act as mission commander for the day-long journey to the station, with Larry Connor as pilot and Mark Pathy and Eytan Stibbe as mission specialists.
The training provided to the crew has allowed them to become acquainted with the ISS's systems, research facilities, and emergency measures. The crew, who each paid $55 million for the mission, will spend eight days onboard undertaking research, commercial activities, and instructional sessions for children on Earth below.
On Apr. 8, they will take off on a flight-proven SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
In addition to NASA training, the four have been collaborating with the European Space Agency and SpaceX at their headquarters in Hawthorne, California. They were able to become acquainted with the operation of the Crew Dragon capsule, which will take them to and from the station, thanks to the SpaceX training.
Axiom recently released a microgravity research portfolio, which the Ax-1 crew intends to do in orbit in conjunction with a number of Earth-based organizations.
"The goal for the Ax-1 crew is to set a standard for all future private astronaut missions in terms of our preparation and professionalism," López-Alegría said.
Axiom Space has already announced a second launch, despite the fact that Axiom Mission 1 has yet to launch. Ax-2 already has a commander and pilot lined up, despite the lack of an official launch.
The expedition is led by Peggy Whitson, a veteran astronaut who has made three trips to space. She is the first female captain of the International Space Station and holds the American record for the most time spent in space.
She will be joined by John Shoffner, an American racing driver, investor, and pilot, as the Pilot of Ax-2. He will receive training in both ISS systems and the operations of specialist spacecraft.
While on the ISS, the two will work with a California-based Genomics to research single-cell genomics, which is the study of cell individuality and the comparison of new cells.