During the mission, dubbed AX-1, the four-man crew spent nearly two weeks away from Earth’s surface, at least in part conducting experiments and other scientific work. Other space tourism companies like Blue Origin or Virgin Galactic only offer customers short flights that allow for a few minutes of microgravity.
NASA added that the requirement was still being fulfilled, but the agency noted that a legitimate former astronaut “provides experienced guidance to special astronauts during pre-flight preparation through mission execution.” The former NASA astronaut also “provides a link” between ISS residents and private astronauts, which the agency said “reduces risks” to ISS operations and safety.
Axiom has already said that its second special astronaut mission to the International Space Station, dubbed AX-2 and expected to launch next year, will have former NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson as the mission leader.
During remarks at the annual International Space Station Research and Development Conference last week, Lopez Alegria spoke about how he became a mission leader for the AX-1 flight, saying he did not initially expect to return to space after retiring from NASA.
When Axiom was looking for clients, he said, “It became quite clear, first of all, that clients really didn’t want to travel with anyone who hadn’t done that before.” It also became clear, he said, “NASA was more comfortable having someone who’s been there before.”
“We were having a meeting and looking around the room and I was the only one who went into space, so I raised my hand. I volunteered,” Lopez Allegria quipped at the conference.
NASA is also adding additional requirements that appear to be a result of new information learned from the AX-1 mission. Future special missions to the space station will include more time for “microgravity adaptation,” as the ISS’s floating environment can often cause space sickness, which is similar to motion sickness.
The FSA will also provide clarifications of the International Space Station’s code of conduct for commercial visitors, requirements for more detailed plans regarding the crew’s interaction with the media, as well as the need for additional time to evaluate research proposals before they are brought on board.
“If it weren’t for the NASA astronauts and their tremendous help, we would never — absolutely to stress the word — have been able to achieve all of our goals,” Connor said at the time. “We underestimated the time on some projects. We had one early project that we thought would take two and a half hours and take five hours.”
A NASA representative did not immediately respond to CNN Business’s request for further comment on the new requirements. However, they came with the private spaceflight industry taking off officially after decades of people who had largely had to rely on government agencies and were extraordinarily selective. astronaut recruitment process if they want to go into space. Now, those seeking to leave Earth’s surface simply must have the means to pay for it.
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