FLORIDA — Three rich businessmen and their astronaut escort returned to the Earth’s surface Monday at 12:06 p.m. after spending 15 days aboard the International Space Station (ISS).
The private Axiom Space company arranged the visit with NASA for its three paying 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.
This marked the first private charter flight by SpaceX to the ISS, and the first NASA hosted guests following decades of tourists being brought to the orbiting station by its Russian counterpart.
The four men began their journey home Sunday evening when they undocked from the ISS at 8:10 p.m. in the Crew Dragon Endeavor capsule. They spent more than 16 hours aboard their space vehicle by the time they splashed down just off the coast of Florida.
The three guests paid $55 million each for the experience which included the rocket ride, their on-board accommodations, all meals, and access to all but the Russian portion of the space station unless permission was granted by the three cosmonauts aboard.
Axiom is targeting next year for its second private flight to the space station. More customer trips will follow, with Axiom adding its own rooms to the orbiting complex beginning in 2024. After about five years, the company plans to detach its compartments to form a self-sustaining station — one of several commercial outposts intended to replace the space station once it’s retired and NASA shifts to the moon.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.