NASA recruits programmers

Crew for private mission to the ISS complete - speculation about filming

Ax-1, the first private mission into Earth orbit and to the International Space Station, is slated for launch at the end of next year. It is being implemented by Axiom Space, and the company has now recruited three private astronauts to fly into space together with former NASA astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria.

It starts in a year

Axiom Space announced this March that it would launch "the first completely privately manned space mission to the ISS in history." The mission, dubbed Ax-1, is to use SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft to bring private astronauts to the ISS for at least eight days. At the International Astronautical Congress in October, Axion CEO Michael Suffredini said the launch would be targeted for the fourth quarter of 2021.

Beyond that, there are only a few details so far. It is known that former NASA astronaut Michael Lopez-Aligria is participating in the mission, but the names of his companions have not yet been revealed. A promotional photo from Axion on Twitter shows three male silouettes, which suggests that there will be no woman among them.

Who comes on board?

There was excited speculation on Twitter and other social media that the other two astronauts could be actor Tom Cruise and director Doug Liman; the two had negotiated with NASA about the production of a film on board the ISS. Axiom was also involved in those talks, NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said in June. However, it was reported this week that one of the two previously unknown astronauts was former Israeli fighter pilot Eytan Stibbe.

But even without the possible film, Ax-1 would be a big step towards NASA's goal of opening up the ISS to private activities and using the space station as a platform for increased commercialization of low-earth orbits before it reaches the end of its planned lifespan in 2030. Axion plans to install a residential module on the ISS in 2024. It is intended to be the first part of a larger private space station to be built and installed over the rest of the decade.

(sma)

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