Third Commercial Space Flight Facilitated by NASA Completes Without Incident

In an effort to expand NASA’s commercial space ventures, the third private astronaut flight to the International Space Station was a success. Friday saw the safe return of Axiom Mission 3 (Ax-3) and its four crew members, splashing down off the shore of Daytona, Florida.

After nearly 22 days, which includes 18 days aboard the space station, Axiom Space astronauts Michael López-Alegría, Walter Villadei, Marcus Wandt, and Alper Gezeravci returned to Earth aboard a SpaceX Dragon spaceship at 8:30 a.m. EST. The astronauts and spacecraft were recovered by teams working on SpaceX recovery vessels.

“Low Earth orbit is now within humanity’s economic sphere of influence.” According to Phil McAlister, head of NASA’s commercial space division at NASA Headquarters in Washington, “it presents the best opportunities for the U.S. commercial space sector to capture new global and domestic markets and to provide critical capabilities to the nation’s space objectives.” “This ground-breaking Ax-3 mission is part of a larger effort, enabled by NASA, to open space to more people, more research, and more opportunities as the agency prepares for the transition to future private space stations at the end of this decade.”

On January 18, at 4:49 p.m., a Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Ax-3 mission lifted off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Dragon docked to the forward port of the Harmony module around 37 hours later. On Wednesday at 9:20 a.m., the astronauts disembarked from the same port to start their journey home.

The crew conducted commercial activities, educational outreach, and microgravity research over the course of more than two weeks. After returning to Florida, the spacecraft is processed and inspected at SpaceX’s refurbishment facility at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. Teams there will review the data and performance the spacecraft collected during the voyage. The astronauts carried out more than thirty scientific experiments throughout their voyage and brought back science, including NASA cargo, to Earth.

As part of its plan to establish a thriving space commercial sector in which NASA will be only one of many clients, the agency is funding private space trips for astronauts.

NASA’s attempts to support a low-Earth orbit commercial sector and to usher in a new era of space exploration that allows more individuals and organizations to fly multiple mission objectives have culminated in the Ax-3 mission. Through this collaboration, more people, scientists, and businesses will have access to low Earth orbit and the International Space Station, broadening the arc of human spaceflight history.

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