JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Axiom Space completed its first all-private mission to the International Space Station Monday after three paying customers and a former NASA astronaut splashed down in a SpaceX Dragon in the Atlantic Ocean.
The 10-day planned Axiom-1 mission turned into a 17-day after mission control waved off several attempts to bring the private crew home because of bad weather around the Florida peninsula at any potential splashdown sites.
Dragon Endeavour undocked from the ISS Sunday around 9 p.m., and the journey to Earth began with the last overnight stay in space for the Ax-1 crew.
Axiom Space Vice President and former NASA astronaut Michael López-Alegría and paying customers Larry Connor, Mark Pathy and Eytan Stibbe splashed down off the coast of Jacksonville after 1 p.m. Monday completing their private mission.
The crew traveled 6.3 million miles during their spaceflight.
After hitting Earth's atmosphere Dragon slowed down from 1,750 mph and then two sets of parachutes slowed the spacecraft from 350 to 1 mph at splashdown. The four private astronauts likely experienced up to 4G forces during re-entry.
After splashdown, the once white Dragon capsule looked like a toasted marshmallow bobbing in the Atlantic Ocean as recovery teams arrived to collect the spacecraft and its crew.
SpaceX launched the Axiom-1 mission on April 8 from Kennedy Space Center, and the first all-private crew was welcomed on the ISS the following day by NASA's Crew-3 astronauts.
Axiom Space executives say that these four men were not space tourists despite the price tag and in the era of billionaires going to space with Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic. Each crew member brought research to conduct in the orbiting laboratory during their two-week stay. The three customers selected science objectives close to their interests.
The mission wasn't all serious, though.
López-Alegría played the keyboard on the ISS in a duet with pianist BLKBOK on Earth. The Axiom-1 crew also brought along Spanish paella from world-famous Chef José Andrés to share with their fellow crew in orbit.
Axiom Space has another private ISS mission planned called Axiom-2. Former NASA Astronaut Peggy Whitson, now an Axiom employee, will command that mission. Axiom has only announced one of the paying customers on that flight, American racing driver and J2-Racing owner John Shoffner. Whitson and Shoffner have been training for their upcoming flight.
Currently, those with the financial means can inquire with Axiom Space about booking a stay in orbit as soon as this year and as late as 2025.