"It was a lovely ride."
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket has delivered a crew of space tourists to the International Space Station as part of space company Axiom Space's second-ever mission to the orbital outpost.
The Dragon spacecraft docked with the station Monday morning, successfully delivering commander Peggy Whitson — a former NASA astronaut who has spent more days than any other American or woman in space — along with a wealthy investor and two Saudi Arabian space tourists to the station.
Hours later, the crew opened the hatch, with the existing crew members welcoming the four on board. Whitson was visibly beaming as she floated into the station for the fourth time.
The mission marks the first time a woman has commanded a private crewed mission. Additionally, Saudi space tourist Rayyanah Barnawi has also become the first Saudi woman to travel to space.
In short, it's a big win for the burgeoning private space industry and yet another — albeit small — stepping stone toward a future where space travel becomes more commonplace.
"It was a lovely ride; as I mentioned, it was the softest docking I've ever felt," Whitson told SpaceX mission control. "Very well done."
The Ax-2 crew is now boarding the ISS, with the legendary @AstroPeggy first out and all smiles:
Whitson is adding to her previous 665 days in space with this flight, the most of any American or female astronaut. pic.twitter.com/6c99pxujpl
— Michael Sheetz (@thesheetztweetz) May 22, 2023
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It's the second time Axiom Space has teamed up with SpaceX to send tourists to the ISS. Just over a year ago, Axiom successfully delivered the first all-private crew on the ISS.
The crew of four will spend eight days on board, staying alongside the existing seven astronauts currently residing there.
The space tourists will also be conducting their own independent research, according to Axiom.
While it's a big win under its belt, Axiom Space already has much greater ambitions. The company is hoping to launch its first space station module as soon as 2025, which will be attached to the ISS, to make more room for future space travelers.
But it's not quite time for us to start dreaming about spending our next holiday in space. Considering a ticket to get to space on board a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule still costs around $55 million, it's an extremely expensive journey reserved for the ultra-wealthy.
With increasing private investments in the private space industry, though, it's conceivable that price could go down at least modestly over time, a glimmer of hope for those still looking to venture into the great beyond.
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