Axiom Space Chief Revenue Officer Tegbul Bhatia said the company’s first mission in April to the International Space Station was entirely made up of 4 trained civilians from different countries.
Bhatia explained in an interview with Al-Arabiya that the planned duration of the mission was 10 days, but they stayed for 17 days due to weather conditions during the time of their return, stressing that the mission was very successful on all levels.
“We are a private company that works with the International Space Station and the various countries and agencies that operate it, and the main objective of that mission is to transport a civilian crew to the International Space Station to live and work with the professional astronauts who are there,” he added.
Regarding the consideration that the civilians who travel to space are tourists, Bhatia said: “I would not use the word tourists, but explorers, as we are still in the early days of space exploration by private parties.”
He added that the passengers paid for the trip and were clients of “Axiom”, but that each one of them underwent very intensive training, equivalent to working years in the US space agency NASA in Houston, and the same training that astronauts go to the International Space Station.
“No tourist can travel to the station, even if they have the ability and buy tickets, they must undergo training and be selected like NASA astronauts in order to be able to travel to the space station,” Bhatia said.
He pointed out that one of the four individuals is a former astronaut, who had previously visited the station several times and was the commander and an employee of “Axiom”.
Bhatia did not comment on the amount, but said it was high, as space is expensive.
And he indicated that the other reason why he did not use the word “tourism” is that they were not ordinary people, saying: “We work with countries and send professional astronauts, and all the tasks we announced were in cooperation with countries that will send astronauts on different missions ranging from 10 days to 180 days. They go to the station and train with us, just like their fellow astronauts.”
He added, “We also work with institutions that carry out various tasks, including research and scientific purposes, and this is another reason why I do not use the word “tourists.” As for the price, it depends on the mission and the client.”
Bhatia revealed that the company’s next mission will be in early 2023 and will accompany a crew of 4 people, followed by two missions, stressing that the company will have more ordinary people and more national astronauts from international customers.
He stated that the announced countries are Italy, Hungary and the UAE, while more countries will be announced during the next few weeks.