Israeli astronaut Stipe returns safely to Earth after a mission to a space station

Israel’s Eitan Stipe and three other astronauts landed Monday off the coast of Florida after spending two weeks aboard the International Space Station on a landmark mission for the commercial sector.

After a spectacular landing, a SpaceX Dragon capsule carrying the Axiom-1 crew floated gently into the Atlantic Ocean near Jacksonville at 1:06 p.m. (1706 GMT) on four massive parachutes.

“Dragon Endeavor has returned home with the crew of the Axiom-1,” said one of the announcers, as the rescue ship made its way to the capsule.

The spacecraft has been affectionately referred to as “roasted marshmallow” because of the burning marks on its heat shield from re-entering the atmosphere at 17,500 mph (28,000 km/h).

It marks the official end of the first all-private mission to orbital position — and a turning point in NASA’s goal to commercialize a region of space called Low Earth Orbit.

“Welcome home, Axiom-1!” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson tweeted. “#Axis 1 and all the progress we’ve seen in the commercial space sector wouldn’t be possible without NASA’s collaboration with private industry.”

President Isaac Herzog Stipe has congratulated him on his return.

“Welcome back to Earth, Israeli astronaut Eitan Stipe! One small step for man, one giant leap for the State of Israel and the space mission of mankind,” Herzog wrote on Twitter.

Stipe and his three crew members — American real estate mogul Larry Connor, Canadian financier Mark Bathy, and veteran Spanish-American astronaut Michael Lopez Alegria — blasted off on April 8. , while the three emperors charge $55 million each for the privilege.

They were originally scheduled to spend only eight days on the space station but bad weather forced them to be delayed repeatedly. In total, the crew spent 17 days in orbit, 15 of them on the International Space Station.

This image provided by SpaceX shows the SpaceX crew sitting in the Dragon spacecraft on April 8, 2022 in Cape Canaveral, Florida. The Israeli Eitan Stibi is right. (SpaceX via AP)

Stibbe is the second Israeli astronaut. The first, Ilan Ramon, was killed in 2003 when the space shuttle Columbia crashed upon re-entry, killing all seven crew members on board. Ramon’s family members were on hand when Stipe’s flight was first announced in 2020, and they were also present for takeoff in Orlando.

Stipe carried with him the surviving pages of Ramon’s space diary, as well as mementos from his children. He even celebrated Easter at the station with Matsah he brought and Gevilt fish given on board by the Russian cosmonauts.

Research, not tourism

Axiom was careful to stress that its mission should not be considered tourism, in contrast to the recent attention-grabbing sub-tropical flights by Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic.

Aboard the International Space Station, which orbits 250 miles (400 km) above sea level, the Quartet has carried out research projects, including demonstrating MIT’s technology for smart tiles that form a robotic, self-assembled swarm in space engineering.

Another trial involved using cancer stem cells to grow small tumors, then taking advantage of the accelerated aging environment of microgravity to identify early changes in those tumors, to help improve screening methods.

NASA has already given the green light, in principle, for a second mission: Ax-2.

The departure of the Ax-1 crew left seven people on the ISS: three Americans, one German and three Russians.

Israel’s Eitan Stipe enters the International Space Station, April 9, 2022. (Screenshot/SpaceX)

Monday’s manned SpaceX Dragon capsule landing was the fifth so far.

SpaceX, owned by billionaire businessman Elon Musk, regularly transports NASA astronauts to and from the space station.

Last year, Musk launched another completely private mission, which orbited Earth for three days without being attached to the International Space Station.

Axiom sees the flights as the first steps to a larger goal: to build its own space station. The first unit is scheduled to be launched in 2024.

The plan is for the station to initially be attached to the International Space Station, before eventually flying autonomously when the latter retires and is de-orbited sometime after 2030.

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