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First all-private station mission set to come home, splashing down off the coast of Florida

The Ax-1 crew participates in a video call shortly after launching from Kennedy Space Center. Photo: Axiom
The Ax-1 crew participates in a video call shortly after launching from Kennedy Space Center. Photo: Axiom

The four members of an all-private crew are set to begin their return to Earth Tuesday after spending more than a week on board the International Space Station.

They’ll return to Earth in the SpaceX crew dragon capsule that got them there, splashing down off the coast of Florida about a day after leaving the ISS.

Ax-1 Commander Michael López-Alegría, Pilot Larry Connor, and Mission Specialists Eytan Stibbe and Mark Pathy will complete 12 days in space at the conclusion of their mission. They'll also bring back more than 200 pounds of completed science experiments with them from the station.

It’s the first time an all-civilian crew visited the station. The commander of the mission is an employee of private space company Axiom which chartered the mission. The other three are customers of Axiom, paying around $55 million each for the mission.

“This really begins a new era of human spaceflight," said López-Alegría from the station during a farewell ceremony Tuesday. "We think that in the future, this will be something that we can share with more and more and part of humanity and will make humankind all the better for it."

Ax-1 is scheduled to undock with the station Tuesday at around 10 p.m. EDT, with a planned splash down no earlier than Wednesday at 3:24 p.m. EDT.

Once this crew is safely back on Earth, four more astronauts will launch to the station on NASA and SpaceX’s Crew-4 mission, currently targeting a launch Saturday from Kennedy Space Center, where they’ll spend six months aboard the orbiting lab.

Brendan Byrne is WMFE's Assistant News Director, managing the day-to-day operations of the WMFE newsroom, editing daily news stories, and managing WMFE's internship program.

Byrne also hosts WMFE's weekly radio show and podcast "Are We There Yet?" which explores human space exploration.
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