Dayton Businessman Ready For SpaceX Flight To International Space Station
Dayton real-estate investor, philanthropist and pilot Larry Connor, 71, will be headed to space in January 2022 with the first-ever all civilian flight to the International Space Station.
“Once you examine the facts, I think most people can be confident and comfortable that it will be a very safe mission,” says Connor, managing partner of The Connor Group.
Axiom Space in Houston is the private aerospace company behind the mission. Connor will be part of a four-man, multi-national crew on the SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft.
“We’ll have a commander, Mike Lopez Alegria, who’s a multi-time shuttle astronaut,” Connor says. “Myself as the pilot, two other mission specialists. And another individual from Canada.”
Connor, an Ohio State University graduate and private pilot, is one of the investors in the space flight. He would not reveal how much money he has spent on this venture, but it's estimated that each of the four-man crew will pay about $55 million for the historic trip.
“NASA’s done a great job, but you’re going to need the private sector to really drive space as the next great frontier ahead,” he says.
Connor says he is not hesitant about traveling into space.
“We really thoroughly examined the track record of safety, the work that SpaceX has done, the training that we’re going to do through Axiom, and I’m very comfortable and very confident that we can execute a successful mission and do it in a safe manner,” Connor says.
Connor says the group will undergo four months of training before the flight.
“They are private citizens,” Connor says. “But they will go through extensive training and they will have to be certified by NASA as mission specialists.”
Connor says the crew expects to participate in some research while in space with the Mayo Clinic and the Cleveland Clinic.
“I look at it more as the total next great frontier of space and that the private sector has multiple opportunities to do things both short-term and long-term," he says.
Connor says he understands there may be criticism for spending so much money outside of Earth’s planet. He says his firm has launched some community projects to serve those in need, and will be investing $400 million into medical research over the next 10 years.
The company’s nonprofit arm, The Connor Group Kids & Community Partners, has provided $1 million to Dayton-area students for help in buying groceries and getting in-home WiFi to underserved families. The organization is also building a new private pre-K through 8th grade school to serve “under-resourced” students.
“We’re hoping maybe that for some of the kids, [the space flight] will spur an interest in science, maybe even in space,” Connor says.