Three men are set to spend more than $70 million each to while away two days flying to their next holiday spot, where they’ll spend eight days in sleeping bags before another two-day flight home.
The price is apparently worth it though – and it’s something only a handful of others have done: Look back at the Earth from space.
A private space tourism company is sending the three men to the International Space Station (ISS) aboard one of the Crew Dragon capsules from Elon Musk’s SpaceX company, and has announced its first three passengers. (It will come as no surprise that they are all very wealthy.)
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American real estate entrepreneur and activist investor Larry Connor, 71, will be the second oldest person to go to space behind John Glenn, who flew on Space Shuttle Discovery in 1998 aged 77, while also serving in the United States senate. (Mr Glenn died in 2016 aged 95.)
Canadian investor and philanthropist Mark Pathy, 51, will join Mr Connor on the trip along with Israeli investor and former air force pilot Eytan Stibbe, 63.
Mr Connor and Mr Stibbe are both grandfathers while Mr Pathy has three young children, according to the Washington Post.
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The trio are aware of the sizeable risks that come with going to space.
“Obviously there’s some fear, and this is definitely extreme. And then there are risks, and I’m aware of the risks,” Mr Stibbe told the Post.
He was reportedly close friends with Israel’s first astronaut Ilan Ramon, who died in 2003 when the Columbia shuttle disintegrated on re-entry, and Mr Stibbe now serves on the board of the Ramon Foundation seeking to grow the Israeli space sector in his departed friend’s honour.
The trio are headed to the ISS thanks to a company called Axiom Space, whose vice-president Michael López-Alegría went to space four times during his 20-year tenure as a NASA astronaut, during which he also clinched the record for most spacewalks.
He’ll be in charge of getting them trained up for the trip and also serve as mission commander.
Axiom is hoping for two flights year and is also working on its own space station that could one day replace the ISS, which has been orbiting Earth for 22 years.
Axiom Space president and chief executive Michael Suffredini said the crew’s “private missions to the International Space Station will truly inaugurate an expansive future for humans in space – and make a meaningful difference in the world when they return home”.
Wealthy private citizens have previously flown to space aboard Russian Soyuz rockets, but NASA didn’t allow it on US soil (and also hadn’t sent anything to space since the closure of the shuttle program in 2011).
The commercialisation of the American space program in recent years led to the reversal of the policy in 2019.
The agency had previously determined space flight was too risky for ordinary citizens after it sent schoolteacher Christa McAuliffe aboard the Challenger space shuttle in 1986, which exploded 73 seconds into its flight, killing all seven people on board.
Mr López-Alegría, who flew aboard a Soyuz rocket alongside Iranian engineer and private citizen Anousheh Ansari in 2006, will focus on making sure Axiom’s crew are welcomed aboard the ISS and don’t get in the way.
His initial response to flying with Ms Ansari was “a little hard to swallow” after years of preparing to become an astronaut only to be flying alongside someone who “kind of cuts the line”, but he said he was won over by her “consummate professionalism” and a blog she wrote during her time that had an audience in the millions.
“These are people that otherwise wouldn’t have cared less about what was going on in human spaceflight, and that idea of sharing the experience really hit home for me,” Mr López-Alegría told the Post.
He said it would be the Axiom crew’s job to win over the astronauts already on the ISS.
“We can do that certainly by being as prepared and expert as possible, and so, my goal is to get those guys to the point where no stone is unturned, and when they get on board [the] station, the crews are pleased, maybe pleasantly.”
Lift-off is hoped for late 2021 but a date for launch is yet to be set.