World's Most Expensive Flights

Axiom Space announces first ISS private passengers paying $55m for trip.

Axiom Space just released the names of the world's first private astronaut crew, and each paid $55 million for a ticket to the International Space Station (ISS), according to the company's official website. While the rest of us are simply looking forward to flying to a beach somewhere, this trio has loftier ambitions.

A Canadian investor, an American real-estate investor, and a former Israeli Air Force pilot constitute the crew that collectively paid $165 million. And while this is a turning point for the budding space industry - with several companies racing to transform space travel into an affordable market for private citizens - it also sets a pricey precedent for future hopeful astronauts who lack deep pockets.

"As the first fully private mission to go to the ISS, we feel an enormous responsibility to do it well," said Michael López-Alegria - the mission's commander and veteran astronaut - to The Verge. "We realize that this is the trend-setter, the bar-setter for the future, and so our goal is to really exceed all expectations."

The crew includes Mark Pathy - a Canadian philanthropist and investor; Larry Connor, a non-profit activist investor and entrepreneur; and Eytan Stibbe - who was a fighter pilot for the Israeli Air Force and is also an impact investor. This is Axiom's inaugural crew for the first-ever all-private mission.

Connor is 71 and president of the Connor Group - a luxury real-estate investment company with headquarters in Ohio. If Axiom's launch with SpaceX goes forward, Connor will become the second-oldest person to fly to space - second to John Glenn, who piloted the U.S. space shuttle Discovery at age 77.

The first-ever private crew's trip to the ISS will follow an orbital trajectory roughly 250 miles (400 km) above the Earth - on a two-day journey. The crew will spend roughly eight days inside the U.S. segment of the ISS, where they'll participate "in research and philanthropic projects," said a statement from Axiom.

Poised in low-Earth orbit, the private crew will rub shoulders with astronauts from the U.S., and Russia, and possibly Germany, while everyone unrolls sleeping bags to sleep throughout the station.

"There aren't any astronaut crew quarters for us, which is fine," said López-Alegria to The Verge. "Sleeping in Zero-G is pretty much the same wherever you are once you close your eyes."

NASA made a policy adjustment in 2019 to enable private astronaut flights to the ISS to encourage commercial interests in space. In the past, the agency was opposed to private journeys to the ISS aboard U.S. spacecraft - although seven private space tourists eventually flew to the ISS during the early 2000s, aboard Russia's Soyuz space vehicles.

A day in the life of a wealthy space tourist is expensive - to most of the world. According to NASA's 2019 announcement, life support systems and toilet services cost $11,250 per astronaut per day, with another $22,500 per day for crew supplies like air, food, medical supplies, and more. With a relatively modest but real $42 per kilowatt-hour charged for power, the total nightly rate for a stay in low-Earth orbit costs roughly $35,000 per person.

Split into four and accounting for the cost of lifting the people and supplies into orbit - including the mission commander López-Alegria - the trip totals $1.1 million for an eight-night sleepover.

These nightly bills are included in the $55 million price the private astronauts are already paying, said Axiom - which describes itself as a "turnkey, full-service mission provider that interfaces with all other parties (NASA, for example) for" private space tourists, an Axiom spokesperson said.

However, before the Ax-1 mission can get off the ground, it needs approval from the Multilateral Crew Operations Panel - a managing body of the space station consisting of partner countries, including Japan, Canada, Russia, the U.S., and more. But this approval process began last week, according to López-Alegria. "I don't think that there's any doubt that the background and qualifications of the crew are more than adequate to be accepted by the MCOP, so I feel good about that," he said.



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