February 23, 2024
The Ax-3 crew aboard the ISS. Axiom Space/NASA

Private astronauts who reportedly paid tens of millions of dollars for a two-week stay aboard the International Space Station (ISS) are getting a little extra value for money after their departure date was changed due to poor weather conditions at the landing site.

“Due to ongoing unfavorable weather off the coast of Florida, Dragon is standing down from Tuesday’s undocking from the space station,” SpaceX said in a post on social media on Tuesday. “The spacecraft and Ax-3 crew remain healthy, and teams will continue to monitor weather conditions for the next available undocking opportunity.”

The Ax-3 crew — comprising private astronauts Walter Villadei, Alper Gezeravcı, and Marcus Wandt, and professional astronaut Michael López-Alegría — arrived at the station on January 19. They were supposed to undock from the ISS last Saturday, but the departure has been put on hold until the forecast improves.

The latest plan is for the Dragon spacecraft and the four crewmembers to undock from the orbital outpost at 9:05 a.m. ET on Wednesday, February 7, though this is dependent upon a final assessment of the weather conditions at the splashdown site.

Delayed departures are not unusual for crews heading home from the space station, and it’s a safe bet that when it happens, most astronauts will be delighted to get an extra few days in space. The four Ax-3 crewmembers will likely continue with some science research activities, assist the other astronauts with various tasks, or, in Wandt’s case, spend some time snapping a few more sublime Earth photos.

Axiom Space’s first private astronaut mission, which took place in April 2022, was supposed to run for 10 days, but poor conditions at the landing site led to the four crewmembers staying in orbit for almost an extra week.

Fans of slow TV will be able to enjoy a live stream of the Ax-3 crew’s spacecraft edging away from the ISS early on Wednesday. Digital Trends has all the details on how to watch.

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