The first private space station crew was introduced Tuesday: Three men who are each paying $55 million to fly on a SpaceX rocket. They'll be led by a former NASA astronaut now working for Axiom Space, the Houston company that arranged the trip for next January. "This is the first private flight to the International Space Station. It’s never been done before," said Axiom's chief executive and president Mike Suffredini, a former space station program manager for NASA. While mission commander Michael Lopez-Alegria is well known in space circles, "the other three guys are just people who want to be able to go to space, and we’re providing that opportunity," Suffredini tells the AP. 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's first customers include Larry Connor, a real estate and tech entrepreneur from Ohio, Canadian financier Mark Pathy, and Israeli businessman Eytan Stibbe, a close friend of Israel's first astronaut Ilan Ramon, who was killed in the space shuttle Columbia accident in 2003. "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 says. Each of these first paying customers intends to perform science research in orbit, he says, along with educational outreach. Each of the private astronauts had to pass medical tests and will get 15 weeks of training, according to Suffredini.
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