All-private SpaceX astronaut mission splashes down successfully after week of delays

New York (CNN Business)The first all-private mission to the International Space Station finally made its way home Monday, making a splash down landing off the coast of Florida and concluding a mission that has lasted a week longer than expected.This mission was brokered by the Houston, Texas-based startup Axiom Space. The company books rocket rides, provides all the necessary training, and coordinates flights to the ISS for anyone who can afford it — and it hopes this is the first mission of many more to come. There were four crew members on this flight — Michael López-Alegría, a former NASA astronaut-turned-Axiom employee who is commanding the mission; and three paying customers: Israeli businessman Eytan Stibbe; Canadian investor Mark Pathy; and Ohio-based real estate magnate

The splash down return is considered the most dangerous stretch of the mission. The Crew Dragon capsule was traveling at more than 17,000 miles per hour, and as it began the final leg of its descent, the Crew Dragon capsule’s exterior heated up to about 3,500 degrees Fahrenheit as it sliced back into the thickest part of Earth’s atmosphere. Inside the spacecraft cabin, the passengers were protected by a heat shield and the temperature should’ve stayed below 85 degrees Fahrenheit.

The Crew Dragon then deployed sets of parachutes as it plummeted toward the Atlantic Ocean. Rescue crews waiting near the splash down site hauled the spacecraft out of the ocean and on to a special boat, called the “Dragon’s nest,” where final safety checks took place before the crew disembarked.

The weather delays then afforded to them “a bit more time to absorb the remarkable views of the blue planet and review the vast amount of work that was successfully completed during the mission,” according to Axiom.

It’s not clear how much this mission cost. Axiom previously disclosed a price of $55 million per seat for a 10-day trip to the ISS, but the company declined to comment on the financial terms for this specific mission beyond saying in a press conference last year that the price is in the “tens of millions.”

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