Aw, billionaire space travelers couldn't handle their assigned workload

“Over time, we’ll reduce what the crew has to do.”

Axiom Space president Michael Suffredini

Axiom Space

The richest of the rich are blasting themselves into space for no reason outside the simple fact that they can afford to do so. A quick reprieve from the burdens of gravity for a smooth $28 million or so is just too good to pass up.

The reality of space travel is much less glamorous than it sounds, though, a fact some billionaires recently found out on their trip to the International Space Station. Four “private astronauts” (read: rich civilians with no space-faring experience) flew on a SpaceX craft to the ISS last month for an eight-day stay, with the intention of completing some tasks on the station before returning home.

Turns out the workload on the ISS was more intense than the billionaires had planned for. They took a few moments to kvetch about their responsibilities in a recent press conference (h/t SpaceNews). “With the value of hindsight,” Larry Connor said, “we were way too aggressive on our schedule, in particular the first couple days.”

Maybe a stint at the beach would be a better move next time.

Not a joyride — The rich civilians did go into this trip knowing it wouldn’t just be for fun. What they miscalculated was just how much effort they’d be asked to expend while floating through nothingness.

Their lack of preparedness affected the real astronauts on the ISS, too. Susan Helms, a former NASA astronaut who serves on the Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel, said there was “some opportunity cost in the form of overly stressing the workload of the onboard ISS members and the mission controllers who support them on the ground.”

In some sense, the unnecessary stress of this mission will inform decisions pertaining to future civilian-staffed flights. Now Axiom Space (the private company through which the mission was organized) can plan for longer trips or reduced workloads.

Plenty more to come — Despite the billionaires’ inability to complete their work on time, Axiom considers this mission a success. They just need to be “a little more efficient” and re-vamp their training.

There’s already another ISS civilian mission in the works through Axiom, with three of the four seats sold thus far. Future missions could go as long as 60 days, the company says, as long as the logistics of squeezing extra people into the space station for that long work out.

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