Israeli astronaut Eytan Stibbe’s return to earth was delayed yet again on Tuesday due to weather conditions, with a new departure date and time yet to be confirmed.
After an initial delay, Stibbe and the other members of Axiom-1, the first all-private mission to the International Space Station, were slated to depart the ISS at 10 p.m. EDT Tuesday (5 a.m. Wednesday in Israel) and hit the water at 3:24 p.m. EDT (10:24 p.m. IDT) the next day.
But on Tuesday, Axiom announced that “due to unfavorable weather conditions, we are waving off tonight’s undocking of the #Ax1 mission.” The company said that its team, in conjunction with NASA and SpaceX, is “assessing the next best opportunity for the return of Ax-1.”
Earlier in the day, NASA informed SpaceX and Axiom that the delay was due to bad weather at the planned splashdown spot for the Dragon Endeavour, which was slated to bring the members of the first private space mission back home.
During a farewell ceremony at the station earlier in the day, Stibbe lauded the international cooperation that took place during the mission, adding that the 10 days he spent there were “one of a kind.”
“We learned a lot, I still feel like I just started, and I’m ready to stay here for another month,” he said.
Stibbe spent his extra day in the heavenly firmament by reading aloud the Hebrew children’s book “Beautiful World” while floating around, in a video designed for children.
The businessman and former fighter pilot was one of four astronauts who took off 10 days ago on the privately-funded Rakia mission that successfully docked at the ISS the next day.
During their stay on the space station, the group stuck to a regimented schedule, which included about 14 hours per day of activities, including scientific research.
NASA has hailed the three-way Rakia partnership with US company Axiom Space and SpaceX as a key step towards commercializing the region of space known as “Low Earth Orbit,” leaving the agency to focus on more ambitious voyages deeper into the cosmos.
Businessmen Stibbe, American Larry Connor of Ohio, and Canadian Mark Pathy have paid $55 million apiece for the rocket ride.
The visitors’ tickets include access to all but the Russian portion of the space station. Three Americans and a German also live up there.
While wealthy private citizens have visited the ISS before, Ax-1 is the first mission featuring an all-private crew flying a private spacecraft to the outpost. Axiom pays SpaceX for transportation, and NASA also charges Axiom for use of the ISS.
The first-ever Israeli astronaut, Ilan Ramon, was killed in 2003 when the Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated upon re-entry into the atmosphere, killing all seven crew members on board. Members of the Ramon family were on hand when Stibbe’s flight was first announced in 2020, and were also present at the take-off in Orlando.
Stibbe carried with him surviving pages from Ramon’s space diary, as well as mementos from his children.
Unlike the recent, attention-grabbing suborbital flights carried out by Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic, Axiom says its mission shouldn’t be considered tourism due to its scientific goals.