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Israeli astronaut’s return to Earth rescheduled for Sunday after weather delays

Israeli astronaut Eytan Stibbe will return to Earth at the start of next week after his scheduled departure from the International Space Station was twice delayed by weather conditions, the company responsible for the mission announced Thursday.

Stibbe and the other members of Axiom-1 — the first-ever all-private mission to the ISS — will leave the space station on Saturday evening and land off the coast of Florida at approximately 1:46 p.m. local time on Sunday, according to the US-based Axiom Space.

A statement said the times were chosen “based on the best weather for splashdown.” Both the departure and landing will be broadcast live.

Axiom added that it and NASA braced for the return to be delayed, saying those aboard the space station have sufficient provisions.

The crew’s stay aboard the ISS will ultimately be at least several days longer than originally planned.

“The Ax-1 crew and Dragon spacecraft remain healthy,” Axiom said, referring to the SpaceX shuttle the team traveled on to the ISS.

The crew’s planned return was most recently delayed from Tuesday, when Axiom said it was evaluating when the next best time would be.

Stibbe, a businessman and former fighter pilot, was one of four astronauts who took off earlier this month from the privately-funded 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.

  • 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.

NASA has hailed the three-way partnership with 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.

Source: TOI