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First all-private mission docks with ISS; Ax-1 astronauts receive space wings

April 9 (UPI) -- The crew from the first all-private mission to the International Space Station docked with the orbital outpost Saturday morning, a historic moment marked by a ceremonial welcome from astronauts on board.

SpaceX's Crew Dragon Endeavor docked at the ISS at 8:29 a.m. EDT and astronauts entered the orbital outpost at 10:13 a.m.

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The docking process was held up for about 45 minutes after a video routing problem on board the ISS. While astronauts aboard the Endeavor and SpaceX flight controllers on Earth could see Crew Dragon's centerline camera, those aboard the ISS weren't.

Upon entering the ISS, Ax-1 mission commander Michael López-Alegría gave each of the other three crew mates a pin from the Association of Space Explorers in a ceremony.

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Ax-1 pilot and businessman Connor said "words don't describe" the experience of being in space.

"Thanks to SpaceX for a phenomenal ride."

The mission was a partnership between private space company Axiom Space and SpaceX, which provided the Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon capsule to send the astronauts to the ISS.

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The Ax-1 mission includes former astronaut López-Alegría as mission commander, Connor as pilot, and Eytan Stibbe and Mark Pathy as mission specialists. The latter three paid $55 million each to join the mission, but instead of visiting the ISS purely as tourists, they'll conduct 25 experiments while in low-earth orbit over the course of 10 days.

Pathy called the journey "amazing" during the televised ISS welcoming ceremony.

"It's been an amazing journey. I'm not just talking about the last 24 hours, I'm talking about everything that's got us here."

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The Ax-1 crew is flying a refurbished Crew Dragon capsule, named Endeavour, which was used to transport SpaceX's first crew of two astronauts -- Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken -- into space in May 2020. The flight will mark the craft's third trip to ISS.

The return journey to Earth also will take about 24 hours, with the crew the splashing down off the coast of Florida next week.

Amy Thompson contributed to this report.

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