Michael López-Alegría, second from the left, and the other three Ax-1 space mission members. / AXIOM SPACE

Watch as Spanish astronaut pilots first private space mission to the International Space Station

Michael López-Alegría and his colleagues will do 25 experiments in the eight days they'll spend in space while eating food prepared by chef José Andrés

LUIS ALFONSO GÁMEZ

The first private expedition to the International Space Station (ISS) will take off this afternoon from Cape Canaveral with Spanish pilot Michael López-Alegría at the helm. The ex-NASA astronaut will take his fifth trip into space and it will be his first as a private citizen.

The mission, named Axiom-1 or AX-1 and is set to take off at 5.17pm (Spanish time), has been organised by Axiom Space, a company that López-Alegría is vice president of. It's the first expedition to be piloted by a Spaniard, which will be reflected on his suit with a Spanish flag.

During the ten-day trip, he will be joined by Larry Connor, Mark Pathy and Eytan Stibbe (Israel), who each paid 55 million dollars for the journey.

Science, education and divulgation

Born in Madrid in 1958 and raised in California, López-Alegría was US Marine pilot and has flown to space on four other occasions. He took part in three space shuttles mission between 1995 and 2002, and he spent seven months aboard the ISS between 2006 and 2007.

Moreover, López-Alegría is the astronaut with the second most amount of hours in extravehicular missions - space walks -, accumulating close to 68 hours of experience, though he always did so as a US citizen, despite having dual nationality.

Spanish menu made by José Andrés

Michael López-Alegría and the mission's three other crew members will be well fed. Chef José Andrés, renowned around the world not only for his food but for his charity work, has prepared a menu for the expedition.

José Andrés, alongside his team at ThinkFoodGroup, have prepared Valencian paella, Iberian pork with ratatouille, marcona almonds and Iberian ham and sausages, which stay in line with NASA's nutritional and technical requirements.