UAE Books Ride for Astronaut on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon

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An astronaut from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) will fly on a SpaceX Crew Dragon as part of a deal between the UAE’s Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre, Axiom Space, and SpaceX. The mission is expected to take place in the spring of 2023.

The UAE hasn’t announced who the astronaut will be yet. The astronaut will become the first person from the UAE to serve on an extended mission and will serve a six-month increment on the International Space Station.

Axiom Space received the seat from NASA as compensation for giving up a seat on the Russian Soyuz for American astronaut Mark Vande Hei in 2021. The UAE astronaut will fly as part of the Crew-6 mission. The Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre did not disclose how much it paid for the seat.

The UAE previously sent Major Hazzaa al-Mansoori to the International Space Station on a Russian Soyuz in 2019. Al-Mansoori stayed on the ISS for eight days.

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The UAE’s space program has gotten into full gear with the successful “Hope” probe, which went into orbit around Mars in February 2022. It also has plans to put an uncrewed lander on the Moon in 2024.

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The UAE also has an ambitious plan to put a colony on Mars by 2117. It currently operates a simulation called the Mars Science City, seen in the below video.

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Axiom Space currently has a four-mission contract with SpaceX to fly crews to the International Space Station. The first mission, Axiom-1, spent more than two weeks in space and returned to Earth on April 25. Its mission was extended due to poor weather at the landing site. Michael Lopez-Alegria (seen in the below video) commanded the mission.

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The next mission, Axiom-2, will be commanded by experienced astronaut Peggy Whitson. It is expected to launch between Fall 2022 and Spring 2023.

The Axiom crews are preparing for the addition of inflatable modules to the International Space Station as early as 2024. Axiom Space plans to spin the inflatable modules off into its own space station by the time the International Space Station is retired.

Axiom Space previously sold seats on the Crew Dragon to “space tourists” for $55 million apiece – about the same price that NASA pays SpaceX as part of its Commercial Crew contract. Reviews were somewhat mixed for Axiom-1, in which a few billionaires paid for seats and then said that they were kept quite busy on the ISS.