International Space Station Welcomes SpaceX’s Ax-3 Crew for Two-Week Stay

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – SpaceX’s Crew Dragon Freedom successfully docked at the International Space Station (ISS) early Saturday, marking the arrival of four astronauts from the private Ax-3 mission. The spacecraft had launched atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on Thursday and completed a 36-hour orbital pursuit before reaching the station’s Harmony module. Ax-3 is the third private human spaceflight by SpaceX for Axiom Space, which has already flown nine people to the ISS since 2022.

The four astronauts aboard Ax-3 are part of Axiom’s first all-European crew. This includes the first astronaut from Turkey, Alper Gezeravcı, as well as mission commander Michael “L.A.” López-Alegría, mission pilot Walter Villadei of Italy, and mission specialist Marcus Wandt from Sweden. They joined a truly international crew on the ISS, which includes representatives from Denmark, the United States, Japan, and Russia.

During a televised welcome ceremony on the ISS, López-Alegría emphasized the collaborative nature of the mission, stating that it symbolized Axiom’s goal to expand human access to low Earth orbit. The astronauts will live and work alongside the station’s current residents, conducting experiments for various research investigations. The focus of Axiom’s missions has been on human spaceflight and habitability in microgravity environments, and the Ax-3 mission continues this trend.

Ax-3’s research includes robotics experiments, AI algorithms for disease diagnosis, and investigations into physics, biology, and microgravity. The crew is scheduled to spend up to 14 days aboard the ISS before returning to Earth with a parachute-assisted splashdown off the coast of Florida.

This successful docking and arrival of the Ax-3 astronauts at the ISS is a significant milestone in the advancement of private human spaceflight. It highlights the growing collaboration among nations and organizations to conduct scientific research and technology development in space. The presence of astronauts from multiple nationalities onboard the ISS underscores the international cooperation that underpins the operation of this extraordinary orbiting laboratory. The achievements of Ax-3 and other private missions contribute to the continuous progress and exploration of space, paving the way for future endeavors.