NASA is gearing up to launch its first-ever space tourism mission to the International Space Station, with liftoff currently scheduled for April 3.
As Digital Trends reports, the space agency is just days away from launching its very first privately crewed mission that will see three amateur astronauts travel to the International Space Station aboard the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft, which will lift off from Florida's Kennedy Space Center on April 3, with the company's Falcon 9 rocket powering its trip to orbit.
Former NASA astronaut Michael López-Alegría will serve as commander on the Axiom Mission 1 (Ax-1) alongside a trio of space tourists who reportedly paid around $55 million to travel to the space station and spend eight days at the off-Earth outpost where they will conduct "scientific research, outreach, and commercial activities," per a recent NASA press release.
López-Alegría, who is now a vice president at Axiom Space, will be joined on the mission by Canadian investor and philanthropist Mark Pathy, American entrepreneur Larry Connor, and former Israeli Air Force pilot Eytan Stibbe, who have participated in hundreds of hours of training ahead of the upcoming launch, including test driving the Dragon spacecraft.
After months of training, the #Ax1 Crew is getting ready to head into quarantine for the final phase of preparation for this historic mission.
— Axiom Space (@Axiom_Space) March 16, 2022
The International Space Station has been orbiting Earth for 23 years, but NASA has plans to retire the outpost in 2030. It could possibly be succeeded by Axiom Space's commercial space station or the Orbital Reef station, which is being built in low Earth orbit by Blue Origin in partnership with several other space companies, including Boeing, Sierra Space, and more.
The space tourism race is certainly intensifying, with more and more companies gearing up to offer commercial flights to space via various alternative modes of transport. World View announced last year that it had designed a 14-million-cubic-foot, helium-filled balloon capsule to send curious travellers to "the edge of space" for $50,000 per ticket.
Adele Ankers-Range is a freelance writer for IGN. Follow her on Twitter.
Thumbnail image credit: NASA.