Axiom-2 Home Safe and Sound

Axiom-2 Home Safe and Sound

The second private astronaut mission to the International Space Station is back on Earth safe and sound. The four-person Axiom-2 multinational crew splashed down in the Gulf of Mexico after 10 days in space, eight of which were aboard the ISS. Axiom Space not only is organizing private astronaut flights to ISS, but building modules that will initially attach to ISS and eventually separate and become a free-flying commercial space station to succeed ISS.

Axiom-2 lifted off from Kennedy Space Center on May 21 at 5:27 pm ET under the command of former NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson, who is now Axiom’s Director of Human Spaceflight.  She was joined by John Shoffner, an adventurer and space enthusiast, and two Saudi astronauts representing the Saudi Space Commission. Ali Alqarni is a Saudi Air Force pilot and Rayyanah Barnawi is a biomedical researcher.

They spent eight days on ISS with the Expedition-69 crew: NASA astronauts Frank Rubio, Steve Bowen and Woody Hoburg; Roscosmos cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev, Dmitri Petelin and Andrey Fedyaev; and UAE astronaut Sultan Alneyadi.

The Axiom Mission-2 and Expedition 69 crews. In the center front row is Expedition 69 crew member and UAE (United Arab Emirates) astronaut Sultan Alneyadi flanked by (from left) Axiom Mission-2 crew members Commander Peggy Whitson, Mission Specialist Ali Alqarni, Pilot John Shoffner, and Mission Specialist Rayyanah Barnawi. In the back (from left) are, Expedition 69 crew members Roscosmos cosmonaut Dmitri Petelin, NASA astronaut Stephen Bowen, Roscosmos cosmonauts Andrey Fedyaev and Sergey Prokopyev, and NASA astronaut Woody Hoburg. Not pictured is NASA astronaut Frank Rubio. May 23, 2023. Credit: NASA

Alneyadi is the first UAE astronaut, Barnawi is the first Saudi woman astronaut and the first Arab woman in orbit, and this is the first time three Arabs have been in orbit at the same time.

Splashdown near Panama City, FL in the Gulf of Mexico was at 11:04 pm ET.

Nighttime splashdown of Axiom-2 in the Gulf of Mexico near Panama City, FL, May 30, 2023, 11:04 pm ET. Screengrab.

Axiom flights use SpaceX’s Crew Dragon. Neither Axiom nor Space X publicize how much it costs to buy a seat, but $55 million is a widely-publicized figure. Axiom also pays NASA for use of ISS resources.

Axiom was co-founded by Mike Suffredini, a former NASA ISS program manager. The company is building Axiom Station, a multi-modular free-flying commercial space station. The four modules planned for launch in 2025, 2026, 2026 or 2027, and one year before ISS is decommissioned will attach to ISS initially before detaching and becoming a free-flying space station.

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