VIDEO: First private astronaut team lifts off on landmark launch to space station - GulfToday

VIDEO: First private astronaut team lifts off on landmark launch to space station

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the company's Crew Dragon spacecraft is launched on Axiom Mission 1 from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. AFP

Gulf Today Report

Three businessmen and a former astronaut blasted off on a SpaceX rocket on Friday for the first fully private mission to the International Space Station, where they will spend more than a week.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the Crew Dragon capsule Endeavor launched at 11:17 am (1517 GMT) from the Kennedy space Center, and the spaceship should dock Saturday morning around 7:45 am.

Previous novice astronauts went to the International Space Station, especially in the first decade of this century, and last year, Russia sent a cinematographic crew to this orbital station, and then transferred a Japanese billionaire to it.

However, the crew of these missions were transported by Soyuz rockets, accompanied by professional astronauts.

This time, the company "Axiom Space" is organizing the trip in cooperation with "SpaceX" and "NASA," which charges money to use its station.

The mission called "Ax-1" is led by Spanish-American Michael Lopez-Alegria, a former astronaut who has visited the International Space Station before.

Each of the three other crew members paid tens of millions of dollars for the experience.

The role of the pilot is played by American Larry Connor, who heads a real estate company.

The flight crew also includes Canadian Mark Pathy, president of an investment firm, and former pilot Eytan Stibbe, co-founder of an investment fund.

The latter will be the second Israeli astronaut in history after Ilan Ramon, who spent the year 2003 in the explosion of the American space shuttle "Columbia" upon his return from the International Space Station.

"He was a friend of mine," Stibbe said at a news conference last week, adding, "I will continue the experience that (Ramon) started 19 years ago with a focus on storm monitoring."

These pioneers conduct about 25 scientific experiments related to aging, heart health, or even stem cells.

"The experiments that I'm going to do there, which are being done for Canadian universities and research institutes, probably wouldn't have happened in space" if it wasn't for this mission, said Mark Pathy.

This is one reason why members of the Ax-1 mission refuse to be labeled as space tourists.

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