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A SpaceX Crew Dragon approaches the International Space Station. Photo: NASA

NASA is gearing up for the first fully private mission to the International Space Station expected to launch in January.

Why it matters: The mission — from Axiom Space — will be one of the first real tests of whether NASA's plans to bring more commercial activity to the space station could work.

  • Instead of being the sole provider and user of human spaceflight services in orbit, NASA is hoping to transition to being a buyer of services provided by private companies, letting the space agency focus more on the Moon and Mars.

Catch up quick: Earlier this year, Axiom announced it would be flying a private crew of four — including one professional, private astronaut — to the ISS.

  • Former NASA astronaut turned Axiom astronaut Michael López-Alegría will act as the commander for the mission, and American entrepreneur Larry Connor will be the mission's pilot.
  • Canadian businessman Mark Pathy and Israeli businessman Eytan Stibbe will be mission specialists.
  • Axiom — which has plans to create a private space station in orbit eventually — has a contract with SpaceX to launch the crew to the space station aboard a Crew Dragon and return them home.

What's happening: The crew is embarking on an intense training program with both SpaceX and NASA as they prepare to spend eight days on the station.

  • "We've been together just a handful of times, but we'll be starting what I would call serious training next week," López-Alegría said during a press briefing yesterday.
  • Next week, the crew will fly on a zero-G parabolic flight and take part in centrifuge training, with plans in the fall to train effectively full time on the systems needed to live onboard the space station and fly to space on Crew Dragon, he added.

Go deeper

Aug 16, 2021 - Science

Bezos' Blue Origin sues NASA over lunar lander contract

Jeff Bezos holds the aviation glasses that belonged to Amelia Earhart during a press conference in July. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin has filed a complaint in federal court against NASA over the agency's decision to award SpaceX a contract to build a spacecraft that will carry astronauts to the Moon's surface as part of the Artemis program.

Why it matters: The complaint is a continuation of Blue Origin's campaign against NASA's awarding of the $2.89 billion contract to SpaceX, which Bezos' company disputed with the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) earlier this year.

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
Aug 17, 2021 - Science

NASA's delayed lunar dreams

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

NASA's plans to land people on the surface of the Moon by 2024 are now essentially out of reach.

Why it matters: As the International Space Station comes to an end, geopolitical attention will start turning to the Moon, with the U.S., China, Russia and other nations engaged in various programs to get people to the lunar surface.

The startup that wants to disrupt big internet providers

Maura Losch/Axios

A new startup backed by funding from AOL founder Steve Case and Laurene Powell Jobs wants to break up broadband monopolies across the country.

Why it matters: Internet access has been crucial during the pandemic, but it's not ubiquitous, and it can be both slow and unaffordable in swaths of the country.