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NASA hails first ever private astronaut mission to International Space Station

NASA hails first ever private astronaut mission to International Space Station

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The International Space Station (ISS) is set to become busier than usual this week when its crew welcomes aboard four new colleagues from Houston-based startup Axiom Space

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, the first all-private astronaut team ever flown to the orbiting outpost.

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The launch is being hailed by the company, NASA and other industry players as a turning point in the latest expansion of commercial space ventures

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Weather permitting, Axiom's four-man team was due to lift off on Wednesday from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida

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, riding atop a Falcon 9 rocket furnished and flown by Elon Musk's commercial space launch venture SpaceX.

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If all goes smoothly, the quartet led by retired NASA astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria will arrive at the space station 28 hours later as their SpaceX-supplied Crew Dragon capsule docks at ISS some 250 miles (400 km) above Earth.

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