NASA, private astronaut mission Axiom International Space Station

The crew of four are expected to spend eight days aboard the orbiting lab.

FLORIDA, USA – In this year of many firsts in space, another historic moment looms on the horizon.

NASA and Axiom signed an order in May that would make way for the first private astronaut mission to the International Space Station.

The mission will take place no earlier than January 2022, reports the space agency.

“We are delighted to see more people gain access to spaceflight with this first private astronaut mission to the space station,” said Kathy Lueders, associate administrator for human exploration and operations at NASA Headquarters.

Axiom Mission 1, or Ax-1, will head to the Florida Coast Orbiting Laboratory at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. The ever-popular commercial space company, SpaceX will be responsible for transporting the private crew into space.

The crew of four are expected to spend eight days on the ISS performing “in-orbit” activities coordinated by NASA and Axiom mission planners.

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To complete the mission, Axiom purchases crew supplies, cargo delivery space, storage, and other daily in-orbit resources from NASA. In return, NASA buys the ability to bring back to Earth scientific samples, which must be kept cold, from Axiom.

“The first private crew to visit the International Space Station is a watershed moment in humanity’s expansion off the planet and we are pleased to partner with NASA to make it happen,” said Michael Suffredini, President and CEO General of Axiom. “A thriving commercial market in low Earth orbit begins with expanding access to serious, non-traditional users and that is exactly the goal of our private astronaut missions.”

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According to a press release, Axiom nominated Michael López-Alegría, Larry Connor, Mark Pathy and Eytan Stibbe as crew members for the mission. Private astronauts will go through an exam, medical qualification tests and pre-flight training before leaving the planet they inhabit.

“The trainers will familiarize private astronauts with the systems, procedures and emergency preparedness for the space station and the Crew Dragon spacecraft,” NASA wrote.

Mission planning foresees that crew training will begin this summer.

The announcement comes as NASA continues to open the space station to commercial activities with the aim of “developing a robust and competitive economy in low earth orbit.”

Other contracts Axiom has with NASA include the supply of at least one commercial habitable module that will be attached to a port on the Harmony node of the International Space Station at the end of 2024.

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