First All-Private Astronaut Team Gets Down to Science Aboard the International Space Station

First All-Private Astronaut Team Gets Down to Science Aboard the International Space Station
Things have gotten a little crowded onboard the ISS with the arrival of the first all-private astronaut team. (Photo: Axiom)

After arriving at the International Space Station on Saturday, the four crew members of Axiom Space’s Ax-1 mission have been busy at work onboard the floating low-Earth orbit laboratory.

The crew of the Ax-1 mission — Michael López-Alegría, Larry Connor, Eytan Stibbe, and Mark Pathy — are currently hard at work conducting different types of research on the ISS to help further advance human spaceflight. Some of the onboard experiments, carried out in cooperation with several institutions including Cleveland Clinic, include an EEG-enabled space helmet and the first two-way Holoportation experiment to be performed in space.

The first all-private astronaut team have been adjusting well to microgravity, and are in “good spirits,” according to Dave Wiedmeyer, Axiom operations lead. The private space venture has been providing daily updates on the crew members onboard the ISS through their YouTube Channel. The team reached the orbital outpost on Saturday April 9.

After unpacking the science payload that came with them from Earth, the crew began their experiments. Canadian investor Pathy successfully pulled off the first two-way Holoportation session in space, using augmented reality goggles to produce a hologram of himself on Earth and beaming a hologram of someone from Earth to the space station. This technology could eventually be used by astronauts to speak to their loved ones during long-duration flights, or be used as a form of telemedicine on Earth.

Meanwhile, entrepreneur and investor Connor brought human cells to the ISS to test out the effects of microgravity on heart health. The data from the cells will be combined with data gathered on the astronauts themselves before, during, and after their flight to measure the toll spaceflight takes on the human body.

Former NASA astronaut López-Alegría has been experimenting with an EEG-enabled helmet that studies pulses from the brain, the purpose of which is to determine how spaceflight and microgravity might affect astronauts’ cognitive abilities.

Israeli investor Stibbe ran an experiment on Fluidic Space Optics, a test that could eventually lead to the development of high precision optical lenses in microgravity. Such lenses would be devoid of imperfections caused by Earth’s gravity, and because they’d be made in space, these lenses wouldn’t have to be transported to space from Earth.

Aside from delving into science and technology research, the Ax-1 crew has also been indulging in the spectacular views provided by the laboratory in orbit.

The four men reached the station onboard the SpaceX capsule Endeavour following a nearly 21-hour journey. They are scheduled to spend eight days on the ISS, which is currently orbiting Earth at a height of 260 miles (418 km).

This brings the total number of people onboard the ISS to 11, fairly more crowded than usual. As a result, some of the new guests have had to sleep in some rather strange places. Stibbe and Pathy are sleeping in the ISS Columbus module, Connor in the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft, and López-Alegría in the airlock. The crew is scheduled to return on Saturday, April 16.