The second private crew of the International Space Station (ISS) prepares to strap themselves into a SpaceX Dragon capsule and embark into low Earth orbit as part of Axiom Space’s follow-up mission to the orbiting laboratory.
Axiom Mission 2or Ax-2, is planned for launchClimb aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on Sunday, May 21 at 5:37 p.m. ET. The rocket will launch from Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. After a roughly 16-hour journey into low-Earth orbit, the four-A crew will dock with the space station’s Harmony module and begin work Eight-day stay on board the ISS.
Who is the Ax-2 crew?
Veteran astronaut Peggy Whitson, currently Director of Human Spaceflight at Axiom Space, will lead the crew as Ax-2 Mission Commander. “After 665 days in space, I’ve learned so many lessons, I might have learned a lesson or two the hard way,” Whitson said during a press briefing Tuesday. “I’m trying to save you some time as our mission is relatively short. So we want to make sure we get the most out of each and every one of those days.”
Whitson had three Long-term stays on board the ISS and holds the record for most days a NASA spends in space Astronaut. Now, having an experienced astronaut is at the forefront of the mission part of NASA’s requirements for private crews on the way to the space station.
Saudi Arabia bought two tickets for his astronauts on board Ax-2. Mission Specialists Ali Alqarni and Rayyanah Barnawi will travel to space for the first time as part of the Kingdom’s premier class of astronauts.
Barnawi, a biomedical researcher, is expected to be the first woman from Saudi Arabia to go into space. “When the announcement was made in Saudi Arabia, [Alqarni and I] “I train here in Houston,” Barnawi said during the call. “Everyone was really looking forward to this mission. It’s a great thing for them to see people from their own region flying to the space station with the amazing Commander Peggy and international partners.”
Alqarni and Barnawi will join a third astronaut from the Arab world currently aboard the ISS, the Emirati astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi. Al Neyadi launched on March 2 as part of to the ISS SpaceX’s Crew 6 mission. It was selected by the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Center (MBRSC) under an agreement between NASA and Axiom Space.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for the three of us to be on board the ISS and it will convey a great message…to inspire people,” Alqarni said. “For us as the Arab world, we work together for the betterment of humanity.”
Rounding out the Ax-2 crew is pilot John Shoffner, who bought a ticket Shoffner recalled falling in love with space at the age of eight, just as the space race was beginning. “We started a young astronaut club in the small town of Middlesboro, Kentucky, where I grew up and that was our weekend fun pretending we trained Gemini pilots and that never let me go, so here I am.”
What will the Ax-2 crew do?Board the ISS?
Although their time aboard the space station is relatively short, the Ax-2 crew members will perform a variety of tasks Scientific experiments and research in orbit.
As part of a Board of Governors Regenerative Medicine Institute project, crew members will study the effects of the microgravity environment on stem cell production. Another stem cell project aims to improve the detection of preCancer and cancer cells, building on a previous research project that was part of Axiom Space’s first mission to the ISS in collaboration with the Stanford Stem Cell Institute.
Related article: Scientists are trying to create stem cells in space
The Axe-2 crew will also test a wearable suit designed to simulate Earth’s gravity. Developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the suit is designed to mitigate the effects of weightlessness on the body during long-haul flights.
How is Ax-2 different from the first mission?
Ax-2 is a sequel to Axiom Space’s first private mission to the ISSAx-1, which was launched in April 2022.
After the return of the Ax-1 mission NASA admitted it learned some important lessons about having private crews aboard the space station. Ax-1 crew members complained that their schedules were too busy and the private astronauts sometimes got in the way of the regular astronaut crew aboard the ISS. As a result, the The space agency has updated some of its rules for future private astronaut crews venturing into low earth orbit.
The experiences of the first mission also affected how the first astronauts trained for their upcoming flight. “We learned some lessons from Ax-1, but also recognized that we need to return to a more short-term style of training,” Whitson said during the call. “I’ve been trying to streamline our training flow so that it’s much more of a short-term focus and focuses on the areas where we need the most experience… so we changed that focus of the training, which I think really is.” succeeded.” The crew is much better prepared this time.”
The Ax-2 crew is scheduled to undock from the space station in late May after working alongside ISS astronauts for just over a week.
It’s an exciting time for the crew of four preparing for their time in orbit. Barnawi joked that earlier in the week she called her grandmother, who eventually gave her her blessing for orbital travel. “I thought it was a bit late set [Arabic for grandmother]I’m already in quarantine.”
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