The first all-private crew on the International Space Station are stuck there as bad weather delays Nasa trip

A poor weather forecast will delay private astronauts returning from the International Space Station — and leave Nasa astronauts waiting on the ground

Jon Kelvey
Thursday 21 April 2022 14:54 BST
<p>The astronauts of Nasa’s Crew-4 mission wait during a dress rehearsal for launch on 20 April 2022</p>

The astronauts of Nasa’s Crew-4 mission wait during a dress rehearsal for launch on 20 April 2022

The first all-private crew mission to the International Space Station will stay there a little longer, and the next mission of Nasa astronauts will remain on Earth a little longer, due to a stormy forecast near the Florida Coast.

The four member crew of Axiom-1, all private citizens flying aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft chartered by commercial space station company Axiom Space, reached the ISS on 9 April and were supposed to splash down in waters off the Florida coast Tuesday. But potentially hazardous weather forced Nasa to reschedule the splashdown to Sunday afternoon.

Crew-4, Nasa’s fourth mission of government astronauts to ride a Crew Dragon to the ISS, meanwhile, was supposed to launch as early as Saturday morning. But since the ISS only has two docking ports where a Crew Dragon and mate with the station, and both ports are currently occupied by the two spacecraft that ferried Nasa’s Crew-3 mission and the Axiom-1 mission to the ISS, someone has got to come home before the waiting astronauts can go up.

The earliest Crew-4 could launch is now 4.15 a.m. Eastern on Tuesday 26 April, although Nasa is also eyeing launch windows on the 27 and 28 April as well.

The four crew of Axiom-1 — former Nasa astronaut and mission commander Michael López-Alegría along with the three Axiom customers who paid $55 million each to fly on the mission, Mark Pathy, Larry Connor, and Eytan Stibbe — arrived on the ISS on 9 April for what was supposed to be an eight-day mission. The crew conducted various science experiments during their stay, although Axiom hopes later private mission astronauts will help the company build out the commercial modules it plans to add to the ISS, the basis of what may one day become a free flying commercial space station.

Nasa’s Crew-4 team, mission commander Kjell Lindgren, mission pilot Bob Hines, and mission specialist Jessica Watkins, and European Space Agency astronaut, mission specialist Samantha Cristoforetti, plan to stay on the ISS for about six months, returning to Earth sometime in the fall of 2022.

Nasa will stream the departure activities for Axiom-1 beginning around 6.15 p.m. Eastern time on Saturday 23 April on the space agency’s website. Nasa coverage of the Crew-4 launch will also stream on the Nasa website at a time to be determined after Nasa sets the launch time for the mission.

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