NASA, Partners to Welcome Private Crew Aboard Space Station

WASHINGTON, Jan. 18, 2024 /PRNewswire/ — As part of NASA’s efforts to enable more access to space, four private astronauts are in orbit following the successful launch of the third all private astronaut mission to the International Space Station. Axiom Space astronauts lifted off at 4:49 p.m. EST on Thursday from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket propelled the company’s Dragon spacecraft carrying Axiom Mission 3 (Ax-3) crew members Commander Michael López-Alegría, Pilot Walter Villadei, and Mission Specialists Marcus Wandt and Alper Gezeravci into orbit. The crew will spend about two weeks conducting microgravity research, educational outreach, and commercial activities aboard the space station.

“Congratulations to Axiom and SpaceX on a successful launch! Together with our commercial partners, NASA is supporting a growing commercial space economy and the future of space technology,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “During their time aboard the International Space Station, the Ax-3 astronauts will carry out more than 30 scientific experiments that will help advance research in low-Earth orbit. As the first all-European commercial astronaut mission to the space station, the Ax-3 crew is proof that the possibility of space unites us all.”

Beginning at 2:30 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 20, NASA will provide coverage of the SpaceX Dragon’s docking, hatch opening, and welcoming remarks on the NASA+ streaming service. Coverage also will air live on NASA Television, the NASA app, YouTube, and the agency’s website. Learn how to stream NASA TV through a variety of platforms, including social media.

The Dragon spacecraft will dock autonomously to the forward port of the station’s Harmony module as early as 4:19 a.m. Saturday. Hatches between Dragon and the station are expected to open after 6 a.m., allowing the Axiom crew to enter the complex for a welcoming ceremony and start their stay aboard the orbiting laboratory.

Once aboard the station, Expedition 70 crew members, including NASA astronauts Jasmin Moghbeli and Loral O’Hara, ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Andreas Mogensen, JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Furukawa Satoshi, and Roscosmos cosmonauts Konstantin Borisov, Oleg Kononenko, and Nikolai Chub, will welcome the Ax-3 crew.

The Ax-3 astronauts are expected to depart the space station Saturday, Feb. 3, pending weather, for a return to Earth and splashdown at a landing site off the coast of Florida.

NASA’s efforts, including private astronaut missions, are opening access to low Earth orbit for private industry allowing the agency to become one of many customers in a thriving commercial economy in space. As NASA enables commercial space, the agency also is readying for Artemis missions to the Moon in preparation for Mars.

For more information about NASA’s commercial low Earth orbit economy development, visit:

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