A group of astronauts who were set to leave the ISS on board Elon Musk’s SpaceX rocket on April 19 and land on Earth have been forced to stay on the space station until Sunday. Poor weather near the Florida coast, where they are set to land, has left the astronauts trapped on the 444-tonne research laboratory floating around the world in the vast emptiness of space. The weather conditions have also prevented Mr Musk’s next rocket to the ISS from taking off.
NASA said: “The decision was made based on the best weather for splashdown of the first private astronaut mission to visit the International Space Station and the return trajectory required to bring the crew and the SpaceX Dragon Endeavour spacecraft back to Earth safely.”
The four private astronauts, or space tourists, are stuck on board are part of the Axiom-1, which is a privately funded mission that used SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft chartered by commercial space station company Axiom Space.
The crew consists of former NASA astronaut and mission commander Michael López-Alegría, who flew to the space station along with the three paying customers, Mark Pathy, Larry Connor, and Eytan Stibb, who paid $55million each to fly on the mission.
While the four Axiom crewmates are stuck in space, Crew-4, Nasa’s fourth government-funded mission using the Crew Dragon spacecraft was supposed to launch as early as Saturday.
However, given that the Axiom mission is currently occupying the docking port that Crew-4 needs to use to attach itself to the ISS, the NASA mission has been delayed as well.
The ISS has only two docking stations, one currently used by Axiom and the other occupied by NASA’s Crew-3 mission.
This means that the Crew-4 mission cannot launch until a docking port has been freed.