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Axiom-1 return to Earth delayed as NASA, SpaceX, Axiom watch the weather

By Amy Thompson
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Axiom-1 return to Earth delayed as NASA, SpaceX, Axiom watch the weather
Axiom-1, the first private mission of astronauts to stay aboard the International Space Station, delayed its return to Earth by 12 hours because of rough weather where their capsule is expected to splash down. Photo courtesy of Axiom Space

ORLANDO, Fla., April 19 (UPI) -- The Axiom-1 private astronauts aboard the International Space Station will stay in space a little longer because of poor weather in the area of the Atlantic Ocean where their capsule is to splash down.

Weather officials, together with Axiom, NASA and SpaceX, are working to determine when they can safely bring the crew home. The crew has already spent 12 days in space.

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Once a new date has been announced, SpaceX's Dragon Endeavor will undock itself from ISS to journey back to Earth, ultimately splashing down in the ocean off the coast of Florida.

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The four private astronauts -- Michael López-Alegría, a retired NASA astronaut and current Axiom employee; Larry Connor, a real estate and technology entrepreneur; Mark Pathy, a Canadian businessman; and Eytan Stibbe, an Israeli entrepreneur and former fighter jet pilot -- launched to the ISS from Florida on April 8.

The crew spent more than 1,000 hours training for the flight and for their stay on the ISS, living and working alongside NASA's current crew of astronauts currently occupying the orbital outpost.

They have been conducting dozens of research projects, many of which focused on the effects of microgravity on the human body.

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In a broadcast from space on Tuesday, NASA astronaut and current commander of the space station, Tom Marshburn, expressed how professional the Axiom crew were and how much research they were able to carry out over the course of their mission.

"I feel very honored to be a part of this mission," Marshburn said. "The throughput of the science that was accomplished is just amazing."

"Unique certainly, magnificent and to some degree humbling, but more than anything [our mission] was very rewarding," López-Alegría added.

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Once undocked from ISS, the Axiom-1 astronauts will spend less than 24 hours in orbit before they fire up the spacecraft's thrusters for a deorbit burn, which will help slow the craft down as it re-enters the Earth's atmosphere.

The capsule will land in one of several sites off the coast of Cape Canaveral, based on weather and the state of the sea in the area.

Recovery crews will be dispatched to retrieve the Dragon capsule and its passengers from the water. The process requires fair winds and calm seas in order to ensure the safety of the crews, with rough weather in the recovery zone causing the continued delayed return.

There's also another quartet of astronauts waiting for the private astronauts to return.

NASA's fourth long-duration crew rotation, Crew-4, with NASA astronauts Kjell Lindgren, Jessica Watkins and Bob Hines, along with Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti, is waiting for their turn to launch to the space station.

That mission is slated for launch on Saturday, but could be delayed depending on when the Axiom crew can land.

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