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The first all-private flight to the International Space Station (ISS) is set to take off on Friday. The mission, organised by the US company Axiom Space, will send a crew of four persons to the space station. However, unlike previous flights to ISS, this mission will not include any current NASA astronauts and all the crew members are civilians. One of the crew members is a former retired NASA astronaut. He is currently employed by the Houston-based firm and the rest are entrepreneurs. The crew will stay on ISS for eight days.Michael Lopez-Alegria, who has extensive experience as a former NASA astronaut, will be the commander of Ax-1 mission. He will be accompanied by US investor and private pilot Larry Connor, Israeli investor and former fighter pilot Eytan Stibbe, and Canadian entrepreneur Mark Pathy on the mission. The trio, each, reportedly paid $55 million (roughly Rs. 420 crore) for their seat.Ax-1 launch: When does the mission take off?Axiom Space said that the liftoff is set to happen at 8:47pm IST from NASA’s Florida space centre. The astronauts will be launched on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and reach the ISS in the Crew Dragon spacecraft.Ax-1 launch: How to watch livestreamAxiom Space, NASA, and SpaceX have joined hands to offer a live coverage of the event from 5:20pm IST to 9pm IST. The coverage will include the life journey of the crew. Axiom and SpaceX will begin covering pre-launch and launch activities live on the official website of Axiom Space. NASA will join the live broadcast during the last hour of launch coverage. The broadcast will resume for docking when the crew’s spacecraft connects with the ISS around 3pm Saturday.Space tourists have previously visited the ISS, but not as part of a fully private crew. For a bulk of space history, most spaceflights have been launched by government-run agencies. But these private flights are set to transform space tourism.Several private players are eyeing the lucrative industry. At the top of the pack is Elon Musk-owned SpaceX, which has largely focussed on NASA contracts but this mission shows it is flexing its muscles to tap other private players as well.



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