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“Goal is to build a commercial space station”

A decade and a half after his last trip to space as a member of NASA, Mike López-Alegría returned to the International Space Station in April, now at the service of a company, Axiom Space.

The conversation with Mike López-Alegría is at Teatro Micaelense, in Ponta Delgada, this year the stage for the GlexSummit and, of course, the former NASA astronaut, son of a Spaniard and an American, already knows that his recent return to space, in a private ship, is the unavoidable theme. I met the Spanish-American (born in Madrid in 1958, but grew up in California) last year, when the GlexSummit edition had Lisbon as its main headquarters. At that time, there was already talk of plans by Axiom, the company where he is one of the leaders, to make a space flight. Then, in an interview with DN, López-Alegría spoke about this future adventure, but also about the four flights serving the United States and the record of the American who has made the most spacewalks. “We are so busy that we don’t have time to enjoy the view”, was the title of this interview. In April 2022, when the Axiom-1 mission rocket became the first spacecraft with a 100% crew of private astronauts to dock with the International Space Station (ISS), the work was also a lot, not least because López-Alegría headed three companions who debuted in space and relied on their veterans. It was 17 days up there, certainly with a breathtaking view, but all of them were busy doing a lot of scientific research, he guarantees.

Was in space in April, 17 days. When was the last time before this, still at NASA?
15 years ago, in 2006-2007.

What differences did you find, apart from being a private astronaut now and then belonging to the American space agency? Technologically, are there also big differences?
First of all, the way I got there, I went in a SpaceX Dragon, a completely new vehicle, with very modern technology, and the last time was in a Soyuz spacecraft with 1960s technology, so it was very different. The International Space Station itself is bigger and I would say more complex, with a lot of research going on and there’s always a lot going on, but at the same time, the feeling I had on the ISS was very, very similar to what I had when I was there. before. The smells and sensations were very similar.

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