A private astronaut who just returned from the space station describes interactions with Russian cosmonauts 2022-04-29 06:36:18


“We had a day when the toilet was soaked for two hours,” Larry Connor, the commander of Axiom Space’s AX-1 mission, according to CNN. “The Russians were very friendly and very helpful. We work as a team there and they said, ‘Hey, come use our team.’” “

In addition to sharing the toilet, the AX-1 crew also shared two family-style dinners with everyone on the space station during their 15-day stay – three Russian cosmonauts, three NASA astronauts, and one German astronaut with the European Space Agency.

Describing the astronauts as “gracious hosts,” Connor invited the AX-1 crew to the Russian part of the space station for “the equivalent of juice boxes and a bit of candy.” But Connor says the war in Ukraine never happened.

“My personal view is that I fully support Ukraine, the Ukrainian people, and their right to exist as a sovereign country,” Connor said. “But as a private astronaut, and part of an international community where it is vital to all of our safety and well-being on the International Space Station, we must, in my opinion, respect that, respect that and from a practical safety standpoint, put these differences aside, however severe, and be One knit unit.

“We weren’t on a cruise”

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with Crew Dragon spacecraft and four private astronauts lifts off from Platform 39A at Kennedy Space Center on April 8, 2022 in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Connor spent more than 100 hours training on the AX-1 research mission, which included complex clinical trials in microgravity on behalf of Mayo and the Cleveland Clinic.

“It was my full-time job for eight months before the assignment,” Connor said. “We were not on a tourist trip. We were on a serious mission and we hope it will have important research and educational outcomes.”

But despite extensive training at NASA’s Johnson Space Center and SpaceX’s headquarters in Hawthorne, California, Connor says conducting science experiments while floating around weightlessness has been a “humble experience.”

These are the four people who set off on SpaceX's first space tourism mission to the International Space Station

“If not for NASA’s astronauts and their tremendous help, we would never — absolutely to stress the word — be able to achieve all of our goals,” Connor said. “We underestimated the time on some projects. We had one early project that we thought would take two and a half hours, and it would take five hours.”

Racing to complete more than two dozen trials, Connor says the AX-1 crew had a “very strict schedule.”

“When we crossed the slot, we got into a real 14-hour day race, basically 7 a.m. until 8 or 9 p.m. for the first five or six days, and then fell back a little bit to 12 hours a day,” Connor said. “It was strict and tough.”

extraordinary mission

The AX-1 mission was organized by Houston-based startup Axiom Space, which is building the world’s first commercial space station. But SpaceX Elon Musk provided the transportation crew to and from the International Space Station.

Connor, an Ohio-based real estate mogul who paid an undisclosed amount to secure a place on the AX-1 crew, was launched from the Kennedy Space Center atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket along with Michael Lopez Alegria, a former NASA astronaut — an Axiom employee who took command of the the mission ; And two other customers are paying the price: Israeli businessman Eitan Step; Canadian investor Mark Pathy.

SpaceX just launched paying customers to the International Space Station.  Here's everything you need to know

“The launch was great, but the re-entry was even better,” Connor said. “You’re going down the hill and you’re falling free and you can tell how fast you’re going, but it’s very controlled.” “There’s some loading from the G. You have a sense of rotation. It’s really exhilarating.”

Connor says he’s “still acclimating to Earth” after the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule plunged into the Atlantic Ocean on Monday.

“It feels like the day after a big championship football game, in terms of aches and pains,” Connor says.

When Connor asked his captain, a veteran of five spaceflights, about body aches, Michael Lopez Allegria replied, “It’s gravity, my friend. Get used to it.”

“I’m happy to be back on Earth,” Connor said. But it was an extraordinary mission.”