KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. – Mission control cheered Monday as SpaceX brought home the first all-private crew from the International Space Station and prepped to launch another crew Wednesday.
Axiom Space said Ax-1 astronauts Michael Lopez-Alegria, Larry Connor, Mark Pathy and Eytan Stibbe splashed down successfully off the Florida coast near Jacksonville.
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“My thanks to all the people who supported us around the world. Just an amazing job and an amazing mission,” Connor, the Ax-1 pilot, said from inside the SpaceX capsule.
Crew Dragon Endeavour undocked from the space station Sunday night, opening a port for the next astronaut capsule.
Engineers are now reviewing the Ax-1 splashdown less than 48 hours before Kjell Lindgren, Bob Hines, Jessica Watkins and Samantha Cristoforetti plan to launch.
“We’re learning anything we have to learn, should learn, can learn about the operation in case there’s anything we need to improve or change for our Crew-4 mission," NASA Crew Dragon Lead Engineer John Posey said.
Crew-4 will be the fourth full-length SpaceX astronaut mission on orbit and the fifth astronaut mission overall in the last two years.
Axiom said it hopes to launch more private crews before the company begins to build its own space station as soon as 2024.
“The goal is to enable routine access to space and through commercial providers and we’re really starting to see that now,” NASA Deputy Certification Manager Carla Koch said.
NASA and SpaceX said Crew-4 liftoff is on target for 3:52 a.m. Wednesday.