SpaceX's Crew Dragon Freedom arrived at the International Space Station (ISS) early Saturday carrying four astronauts from the special Ax-3 mission to begin a two-week stay at the orbiting laboratory.
The Ax-3 launched aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on Thursday (Jan. 18), beginning a roughly 36-hour orbital chase. That chase ended today (Jan. 20) at 5:42 a.m. EDT (1042 GMT), when the Freedom ship docked in the forward port on the station's Harmony module while the two spacecraft cruised 262 miles above the South Pacific Ocean. Ax-3 is SpaceX's third private human spaceflight for Axiom Space, which has carried nine people to the station since 2022.
“This is a very exciting time for human spaceflight with the third special mission, which allows many countries to participate in the scientific research and technology development that we are doing aboard this orbiting laboratory,” said Andreas Morgensen, commander of the station’s seven teams. -Expedition 70 crew person representing the European Space Agency. “We have doubled the number of nationalities on board the space station from four to eight, which I think is a great testament to the international cooperation supported by this wonderful space station.”
Related: Live updates from the private astronaut Ax-3 mission
The Ax-3 carries Axiom's first all-European crew, including the first astronaut from Turkey, mission specialist Alper Gezeravci. He was joined by Ax-3 mission commander and former NASA astronaut Michael “LA” Lopez-Alegría (who holds dual US and Spanish citizenship), mission pilot and Italian Air Force Colonel Walter Velade, and mission specialist Markus Wandt of European Aerospace. The agency that hails from Sweden.
The four men join a true international crew on the International Space Station, which includes Morgensen (from Denmark), NASA astronauts Yasmine Moghbili and Laura O'Hara from the United States, Satoshi Furukawa from Japan, and Russian astronauts Konstantin Borisov, Oleg Kononenko, and Nikolai Chub. The hatches between the ISS and the Freedom capsule opened at 7:13 a.m. EDT (1213 GMT), allowing the Ax-3 quad to float aboard the orbiting laboratory.
“This is really a symbol of how Axiom is working collaboratively with NASA and other partners to expand human access to low Earth orbit,” Lopez-Alegría said during a televised welcome aboard the International Space Station. “We have, as Andy said, many nationalities represented on board and that really symbolizes what we're trying to do to open it up not only to other countries, but also to individuals and researchers to continue the great work that we've been doing that's been on board the ISS for the last two decades.” “.
Lopez Alegría, a former commander of the International Space Station who has flown on three NASA shuttle missions, presented his three Ax-3 crewmates with global astronaut pins to celebrate their accomplishment in spaceflight. While the flight is the first for Gezeravcı and Wandt, Villadei has flown on a suborbital flight aboard Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo Unity, although it is his first trip into orbit.
While aboard the station, Ax-3 crew members will live and work alongside the station's current residents, and conduct experiments for a variety of research investigations. Much of the science involved in Axiom's first two crewed missions focused on human spaceflight and habitability in microgravity environments, and this latest mission continues that trend.
“I would like to thank everyone for their great effort so that we can achieve this here, in the last eight months of training, and also thank all counterparts for their contribution to our safe flights,” Geziravci said. “To reach the International Space Station, we are as happy as Türkiye about that [take this] A step for the first time in our history.”
Ax-3 research includes robotic experiments using high-strength alloys, with implications for construction and assemblies in space; A trial from Turkey called Vokalkord, which uses artificial intelligence algorithms to diagnose dozens of diseases by analyzing someone's cough or speech; And many other investigations in physics, biology and microgravity.
The Ax-3 crew is scheduled to spend up to 14 days aboard the orbiting laboratory, after which the astronauts and their SpaceX capsule will depart the International Space Station and return to Earth with a parachute-assisted landing off the coast of Florida.
“I want to thank all of you again for welcoming us aboard the station,” Lopez-Alegria told the ISS crew. “I know it's hard to have guests in your home and we promise not to spill any red wine on your white carpet.”
Editor's note: This story was updated on January 20 to include the successful docking and welcoming ceremony of the four Ax-3 astronauts to the International Space Station.
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