DAYTON, Ohio — A Dayton businessman will make history next year as the pilot for the first private mission to the international space station.
"I've always been interested in space, but I never had a dream as a kid to be an astronaut," says 71-year-old, Larry Connor.
Connor is an entrepreneur by day, but by night, he’s been researching and working on a plan to get to space for years.
“Space is really the next great frontier and there’s so many positive things that can come out of this," the businessman said.
Connor is the founder and managing partner of the Connor Group, a real estate investment firm with facilities in 15 cities across the United States. He’s owned and started 8 different companies in his life and amassed a small fortune along the way. He’s dedicated a lot to giving back, with plans to contribute $400 million over the next 10 years to underserved children and medical research. That’s what this mission is about for him. Connor says he plans on doing medical research for the Mayo Clinic and Cleveland Clinic while he’s up there.
“I get the criticism on some parts about with all the problems on earth, why are we doing this,” says Connor. “Research. It’s a very, very unique, not able to replicate arena. We believe, long term, it can create a lot of positives for everybody around the globe.”
Connor is part of a four-person team- made up of 2 other private citizens and a former astronaut- to form the first fully private crew to visit the ISS on Axiom Mission 1.
Reportedly, the three private citizens paid more than $50 million to do so. While Connor says he can’t comment on the figure due to a non-disclosure agreement, he’s looking at this as an investment in the future of mankind.
Connor says, “If we, as a nation or as a world, are really going to move space forward, you’re going to have to get the private sector involved. The fact is, whether anyone likes it or not, that initial investment is going to be really high.”
The crew will go through about 4 months of intense training and medical tests before they’re scheduled to blast off next January. When they do, the 71-year-old Connor will become the second oldest person to fly into space.
Connor says, “People have asked me, are you afraid, are you nervous? No and no. Age is overrated. I think it’s about mindset, attitude and doing things to keep yourself healthy both physically as well as mentally.”
Connor will also be adding his name to an impressive list of names and events that links the state of Ohio to the final frontier.
“The birthplace of aviation, John Glenn, Neil Armstrong,” says Connor. “Do not put my name in the category with those great Americans. My job is to play hopefully a small but positive role in moving space forward.”