Changing America

In historic first, all-private crew successfully launches to International Space Station

Axiom Space’s Ax-1 mission will mark the first time an all-civilian crew docks at the space station. 
The Associated Press/John Raoux

Story at a glance

  • SpaceX successfully launched four civilians toward the ISS Friday afternoon. 

  • The mission is part of aerospace company Axiom Space’s Ax-1 mission. 

  • The crew, which includes a former NASA astronaut, will conduct dozens of experiments on the ISS over eight days.

History was made Friday as the first all-private astronaut mission to the International Space Station (ISS) launched from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, marking a new era in commercial space exploration.  

SpaceX successfully launched four civilians aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon vehicle atop a Falcon 9 rocket toward the orbiting laboratory Friday afternoon as part of aerospace company Axiom Space’s Ax-1 mission.  

The mission, Axiom’s first, will be the first time an all-civilian crew docks at the space station.  

Aboard the spacecraft is Axiom’s vice president of business development Michael López-Alegria, a former NASA astronaut who has flown to space four times and is the commander of the mission. He’s joined by American entrepreneur Larry Connor, former Israeli fighter pilot Eytan Stibbe and Canadian businessman Mark Pathy.  


America is changing faster than ever! Add Changing America to your Facebook or Twitter feed to stay on top of the news.


According to The Associated Press, Connor, Stibbe and Pathy each paid $55 million to participate in the mission.  

The launch comes as space tourism and the commercial space industry continues to expand.  

Axiom Space CEO Michael Suffredini earlier this month said the Ax-1 mission is a “precursor” to commercializing low-Earth orbit. The Houston-based startup plans to soon carry out several other commercial flights to the ISS with the goal of eventually creating the world’s first private commercial space station in orbit. 

“This moment for me and my colleagues is a very special moment and the beginning of many beginnings. The launch of Ax-1 to the International Space Station is part of our journey to build the first private commercial space station and we’re so grateful to be here and delighted to be a part of this journey to commercialize low-Earth orbit,” Kam Ghaffarian, Axiom Space executive chairman, said just before liftoff.  

The crew is set to dock to the space-facing port of the ISS Harmony module Saturday morning and will spend eight days conducting more than 25 scientific research and technology demonstrations, including research on self-assembling technology for satellites and space habitats, cancer stem cell research and air purification.  


READ MORE STORIES FROM CHANGING AMERICA