The all-civilian Ax-1 mission crew docked at the International Space Station early Saturday morning, marking the first time private citizens visited the spacecraft.
SpaceX’s Dragon Spacecraft, carrying the four-person crew, arrived at ISS just before 8:30 a.m. EST following a nearly 21-hour journey that launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Docking was initially delayed about 45 minutes due to some technical issues with the video.
“Mission teams worked to route video using a SpaceX ground station to the crew on the space station allowing Dragon to proceed with docking,” a press release states.
Video posted on Twitter by Axiom Space, the Houston-based company that organized the flight, showed the space station astronauts welcoming and hugging the Ax-1 crew. They will be aboard the space station for the next eight days.
The Ax-1 crew is led by Michael López-Alegría, a retired NASA astronaut who now serves as the vice president of business development for Axiom Space. He’s joined by three paying customers: American real estate investor Larry Connor, Canadian businessman Mark Pathy and Eytan Stibbe, a former fighter pilot from Israel. Connor, Pathy and Stibbe paid $55 million apiece for the experience, as The Associated Press reported this year.
While on the space station, they will participate in science experiments and philanthropic projects, including health-related research for the Mayo Clinic and the Montreal Children’s Hospital.
Axiom Space said the mission is a “precursor” to commercializing low-Earth orbit, and said it intends to fly at least three other commercial flights to the space station. It is also planning to construct its own privately-funded space station in orbit.
Denise Chow contributed.