SpaceX launched three rich businessmen and their astronaut escort to the International Space Station on Friday for more than a week’s stay, as NASA joins Russia in hosting guests at the world’s most expensive tourist destination. It’s SpaceX’s first private charter flight to the orbiting lab after two years of carrying astronauts there for NASA, per the AP. Arriving at the space station Saturday will be an American, Canadian, and Israeli who run investment, real estate, and other companies. They’re paying $55 million apiece for the rocket ride and accommodations, all meals included.
Russia has been hosting tourists at the space station—and before that the Mir station—for decades. Just last fall, a Russian movie crew flew up, followed by a Japanese fashion tycoon and his assistant. NASA is finally getting into the act, after years of opposing space station visitors. “It was a hell of a ride,” said former NASA astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria, the chaperone, on reaching orbit. The visitors' tickets include access to all but the Russian portion of the space station—they’ll need permission from the three cosmonauts on board. Three Americans and a German also live up there.
The private Axiom Space company arranged the visit with NASA for its three customers: Larry Connor of Dayton, Ohio, who runs the Connor Group; Mark Pathy, founder and CEO of Montreal’s Mavrik Corp.; and Israel’s Eytan Stibbe, a former fighter pilot and founding partner of Vital Capital. The trio are the latest to take advantage of the opening of space to those with deep pockets. Jeff Bezos’ company Blue Origin is taking customers on 10-minute rides to the edge of space, while Virgin Galactic expects to start flying customers on its rocket ship later this year. Friday‘s flight is the second private charter for Elon Musk’s SpaceX, which took a billionaire and his guests on a three-day orbit ride last year.
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