Private Ax-3 Mission Astronauts to Depart International Space Station


The four astronauts of Axiom Space's Ax-3 mission (in blue and orange flight suits) say farewell to their Expedition 70 crew hosts on Feb. 2, 2024 as they prepared for a return to Earth. (Image credit: NASA TV)

The four astronauts of the private Ax-3 mission are scheduled to depart the International Space Station (ISS) aboard their SpaceX Dragon capsule on Wednesday, Feb. 7, pending favorable conditions. Viewers can witness the live event as Ax-3's Crew Dragon "Freedom" undocks from the orbiting lab, a momentous occasion streamed courtesy of NASA.

Originally planned for Saturday, Feb. 3, Ax-3's departure was postponed due to inclement weather in the splashdown zone off the Florida coast. Subsequent attempts on Monday and Tuesday were also scrapped. Following a weather assessment on Tuesday at 12 p.m. EST, mission officials set Wednesday, Feb. 7, at 9:05 a.m. EST as the target departure time.

Organized by Houston-based company Axiom Space, Ax-3 marks the third crewed mission to the ISS, following previous endeavors in April 2022 and May 2023. The mission launched on Jan. 18 atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from NASA's Kennedy Space Center, carrying four crewmembers: commander Michael López-Alegría, pilot Walter Villadei, and mission specialists Alper Gezeravcı and Marcus Wandt.

López-Alegría, a former NASA astronaut and now Axiom Space's chief astronaut, holds dual U.S.-Spanish citizenship, making Ax-3 the first all-European crewed mission to the ISS. While this is the first orbital mission for Villadei, Gezeravcı, and Wandt, López-Alegría brings significant experience, having flown on six orbital trips, including the Ax-1 mission in 2022.

Throughout their mission, the Ax-3 team has conducted over 30 scientific experiments in areas such as physics and space medicine, contributing valuable data for Axiom Space's future missions and training programs.

As Ax-3 nears its conclusion, SpaceX prepares for the next astronaut flight: Crew-8 for NASA, slated for liftoff on Feb. 22, with a four-member crew set for a six-month stay aboard the ISS. Stay tuned for further updates on Ax-3's departure and upcoming space missions.

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