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First private mission to the ISS splashes down off Florida coast

The Ax-1 mission landed in a SpaceX capsule this afternoon

A crew dragon capsule bobs in the water, connected to a larger boat with tethers
SpaceX’s Crew Dragon is loaded onto a recovery vessel
SpaceX/Axiom Space

The first crew of private astronauts to visit the International Space Station have successfully returned to Earth, splashing down off the coast of Florida soon after 1PM ET. Their return marks the end of a 15-day mission to the ISS, a trip that cost the crew a reported $55 million per ticket.

This mission, dubbed Ax-1, was the first human spaceflight mission for Axiom Space, a private aerospace company that plans to build commercial space stations in the future. Axiom contracted with SpaceX to send a crew of four to the International Space Station on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon, calling it a precursor mission to prepare for sending people to Axiom’s space stations in the future.

The Ax-1 crew’s visit to the space station was supposed to last just eight days, and their itinerary was filled with conducting 25 science experiments while on board. However, their return trip home was continually delayed due to bad weather surrounding Florida and the capsule’s potential splashdown zones. As a result, the crew stayed nearly a week longer than originally planned before finally undocking in SpaceX’s Crew Dragon on Sunday, April 24th.

The Ax-1 crew included Canadian investor Mark Pathy, American real estate investor Larry Connor, and former Israeli Air Force pilot Eytan Stibbe. The commander of their crew was former NASA astronaut Michael López-Alegría, who is now a vice president at Axiom.