First all-private crew returns from International Space Station | Space

The first private crew of astronauts has returned from the International Space Station (ISS).

Michael López-Alegría, Larry Connor, Eytan Stibbe and Mark Pathy are not employed by a government, but are part of the Ax-1 mission from Axiom Space Inc. López-Alegría is a former Nasa astronaut with four previous spaceflights under his belt: three on the space shuttle and one to the ISS on a Soyuz launcher. He is Axiom’s chief astronaut.

The three businessmen and former Nasa astronaut splashed down off the Florida coast. Photograph: SpaceX/AFP/Getty

The other three people are customers and paid an estimated $55m (£44m) each for a place on the mission. They launched from the Kennedy Space Centre, Cape Canaveral, Florida, on 8 April atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, and were meant to return on 18 April. However, delays due to weather concerns held up their flight and they didn’t splash down until 25 April.

The Texas company Axiom Space was founded in 2016 and aims to launch, operate and crew the world’s first commercial space station. Construction is under way with the first elements expected to be ready for launch sometime after 2024.

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