Private Ax-1 astronauts return to Earth, ending historic SpaceX mission

The first-ever all-private astronaut mission to the International Space Station is in the books.

A SpaceX Dragon capsule carrying the four crew members of the X-1 mission plunged into the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Jacksonville, Florida at 1:06 p.m. today (April 25).

"On behalf of the entire SpaceX team, welcome to Planet Earth," the SpaceX mission communicator told the X-1 crew just after splashdown.

Ax-1 was organized by Houston company Axiom Space and commanded by former NASA astronaut Michael López-Alegria, who is now Axiom's vice president of business development.

He was joined in the mission by three paying clients – American Larry Connor, Canadian Mark Pethe and Israeli Eaton Stibbe, who each paid about $55 million for his seat.

Stibbe is the second Israeli to reach space. He was a friend of the first - Ilan Ramon, who died along with six of his crew in the space shuttle Columbia disaster on February 1, 2003.

Paying customers have visited the International Space Station (ISS) before

In fact, Japanese billionaire Yusaka Maezawa and video producer Yozo Hirano stayed at the orbiting laboratory for 11 days last December.

But previous flights of this kind are always commanded by a government cosmonaut—namely, an cosmonaut employed by the Russian Federal Space Agency, Roscosmos.

Ax-1 coordinated with officials from NASA and the ISS, but all of its crew members were private citizens.

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