The SpaceX Axiom Space Ax-3 mission to the International Space Station has returned to Earth: NPR
NASA via AP
ORLANDO, Fla. — A crew of four returned to Earth after landing off Daytona Beach, Florida, Friday morning in the same SpaceX capsule that launched the crew mission three weeks ago from Kennedy Space Center.
And it was their return Delayed several days Due to bad weather conditions off the coast of Florida. Capsule Detached from the International Space Station Wednesday, over the Pacific Ocean, and spent two days flying freely in orbit before breaching the atmosphere on Friday and returning home to the Atlantic Ocean.
The Ax-3 mission to the International Space Station was chartered by Houston-based Axiom Space. The Dragon crew capsule was launched on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on January 18.
The Ax-3 was piloted by Michael Lopez Alegría, a former NASA astronaut who is now a chief astronaut at Axiom. The mission was led by Italian Air Force Colonel Walter Velade, while Turkish Air Force pilot Alper Gezeravci and ESA astronaut Markus Wandt from Sweden served as mission specialists.
Lopez Alegría holds dual citizenship with the United States and Spain, making him the first all-European commercial crew to fly to the space station.
“It’s been an amazing, busy, fun-filled two weeks here,” Lopez Alegría said during a farewell party before the crew parted ways.
Those 18 days on the ISS were spent conducting more than 30 scientific experiments while in orbit, including investigations from each of the participating countries, along with other research partners around the world. All four astronauts are also the subject of ongoing scientific research – data collected before, during and after their flight will improve scientific understanding of the physiological effects of spaceflight on the human body.
Their SpaceX capsule, freedomreturns to Earth with more than 550 pounds of science and supplies from the station, including NASA experiments and instrumentation.
This is Axiom Space’s third private space mission, laying the foundation for future commercial operations in low Earth orbit. NASA plans to retire the International Space Station in the 2030s, and hopes commercial companies will fill the gap in order to create a new platform for orbital research.
“We view these missions as an introduction,” said Matt Ondler, president of Axiom. The company has plans to create its own space station. “We use these missions to really learn how to work with NASA, how to develop research programs, and how to develop long-term partners.”
Axiom did not disclose the cost of the mission.
The company works closely with another commercial spaceflight company, SpaceX. Axiom has used SpaceX’s crew capsule for each of its missions. This is SpaceX’s 12th human spaceflight, which includes commercial and NASA missions.
SpaceX is preparing for its next human spaceflight to the International Space Station later this month, a NASA mission that will carry three American astronauts and a Russian cosmonaut to the space station for a six-month stay. The Crew-8 mission is currently targeting launch no later than February 22.