Science | Space
Michael López-Alegría and his colleagues will carry out 25 experiments during the eight days that they will be in the complex. They will enjoy a menu prepared by José Andrés consisting of Valencian paella and Iberian secret that meets the nutritional and technical requirements of NASA
The first private expedition to the International Space Station (ISS) takes off this afternoon from Cape Canaveral (Florida) with the Spanish commander, Michael López-Alegría. The former NASA astronaut flies into space for the fifth time and for the first time as a citizen of the country where he was born in 1958, whose flag appears on the mission insignia. He will be accompanied on the ten-day trip by investors Larry Connor (USA), Mark Pathy (Canada) and Eytan Stibbe (Israel), who have paid a whopping 55 million dollars per head.
Axiom-1, or Ax-1, is the first manned mission of Axiom Space, a firm of which López-Alegría is vice president. The company, based in Houston (Texas), thus breaks into the space tourism market, a sector in which it aspires to become one of the main agents. In addition to flights like today’s, in which a SpaceX rocket and ship will be used, Elon Musk’s firm is already building modules that will be integrated into the ISS in the coming years. According to his forecasts, when the useful life of the international platform ends, the Axiom Space modules will separate and become the first private orbital station.
The Falcon 9 rocket from the Axiom-1 mission on the launch pad. /
The launch of Ax-1 is scheduled for today from 5:17 p.m. It will be then when platform 39A of the Kennedy Space Center takes off – in platform 39B the last tests of the rocket of the first Artemisa mission are being carried out – the Crew Dragon ship of López-Alegría and his companions on top of a Falcon 9 rocket. and the ship are the same ones that American astronauts use since 2020 to travel to the ISS. Ten days later, the space capsule will splash down in Florida waters.
Science, education and outreach
Born in Madrid in 1958 and raised in California, López Alegría has been a US Navy pilot and has flown into space four times. Between 1995 and 2002, he participated in three space shuttle missions and, between 2006 and 2007, he spent seven months on the ISS, where he arrived and from where he got off on a Russian ship. He is the second astronaut with the most experience in extravehicular missions –space walks–, 67 hours and 40 minutes, only behind the Russian Anatoly Solovyev. All those missions he did as a NASA astronaut and a US citizen, despite having dual citizenship.
The official badge or patch of the first manned mission to the ISS. /
Ax-1 is the first space mission with a Spanish commander, which is reflected both in the official insignia and in López-Alegría’s suit. During the ten days that they will remain in orbit –eight on the ISS–, the astronauts will carry out scientific, informative and educational activities. The program includes 25 microgravity experiments and another dozen pre- and post-mission experiments. Connor will work with stem cells in coordination with the Mayo Clinic to study how microgravity affects heart health and aging cells. Pathy will demonstrate holographic communication: she will project to Earth and talk to the station with the hologram of someone who will be down here. López-Alegría will help them all, in addition to serving as the subject of experiments aimed at understanding the impact of microgravity on our body.
Paella and Iberian secret prepared by José Andrés
The crew of the Axiom-1 mission are going to eat better than most of their predecessors. Far from
the primitive food tubes of the pioneers from the oven trays of the seventies missions and even the most recent hamburgers and pizzas, Michael López-Alegría and his colleagues will enjoy a menu prepared by José Andrés and his ThinkFoodGroup team, consisting of Valencian paella, Iberian secret with ratatouille , Marcona almonds and Iberian ham and sausage, which meets the nutritional and technical requirements of NASA.
José Andrés says that he chose paella for the menu because it is a dish that implicitly carries the idea of sharing. “The way that families, even today, eat it is by putting the pan in the center of the table and eating from the same pan in which it was cooked,” says the chef, who highlights that it will be the first time that astronauts from different nationalities eat a paella like this. “We believe in sharing. We believe that we are all part of the same planet.”
The director of the project to create the space menu has been the Hawaiian chef Charisse Dickens, who is part of José Andrés’s team and has developed the dishes in collaboration with the four crew members of the mission, whose palates have given their approval to the preparations . Faced with those who say that before traveling to space we should solve the problems we have down here, the Asturian chef, a friend of López Alegría, believes that “sending people to the stars can help us solve some of the problems we see on Earth” .
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