If you’re one of the few people lucky enough to afford a $55 million ($76) million ticket to space, chances are you’re not used to forcing labor. The International Space Station’s all-private crew recently reflected on their journey to low Earth orbit, complaining that they had too much work to do aboard the lab as it orbited our planet.
At a press conference on Friday, the four-member crew of Axiom Space’s Ax-1 mission admitted to trying to fit too much into their schedules, ultimately straining both them and the astronaut crew already alive. and working on the station, reports SpaceNews.
“Essentially, the arrival of the Axiom personnel appeared to have a greater-than-expected impact on the daily workload of the International Space Station’s professional crew,” said Susan Helms, a former NASA astronaut, and member of the Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel, During a panel meeting on Thursday.
The crew arrived on the ISS on April 9, taking an impressive experimental payload, including experiments involving holoportation, human cells, and high-precision optical lenses. But because it was their first time in space and they were not professional astronauts or researchers, some experiments took much longer than expected, and according to entrepreneur and investor Larry Connor, a member of the Ax-1 mission, an investigation that would last just two and a half hours based on pre-flight training ended up taking double that time.
“Our timeline was very aggressive, especially early in the mission,” said Michael López-Alegría, a former NASA astronaut who commanded the mission. “The pace was hectic in the beginning.”
The mission was initially intended to last eight nights but was extended to 15 days due to adverse weather conditions. The ISS first-timers didn’t complain about spending that extra time above Earth’s atmosphere, as it allowed them to enjoy the extraordinary views (one of the things they certainly expected for the price of admission). “It was a blessing to have the extra time,” said López-Alegría. “I think in the first 8 or 10 days in space; we were so focused on research and outreach that we needed the extra time to complete the experience by having time to look out the window, connect with friends and family, and enjoy the thrill.”
But their extended stay meant the ISS remained cramped, with 11 astronauts on board. Some science modules allow only four or fewer astronauts to conduct experiments at a time, meaning the crew of the Axiom-1 somewhat disrupted the schedules of regular ISS astronauts.
The company is already preparing to launch its second crew to the ISS after it sold three seats, including one intended for a United Arab Emirates astronaut, on a SpaceX Crew Dragon.
Michael Suffredini, president of Axiom Space, referred to these issues as part of a “lessons learned” discussion the private space company had with NASA and SpaceX after the personal crew’s first mission to the ISS. “Over time, we will reduce what the crew has to do,” Suffredini said at the press conference.