May 22nd, 2023
The four-person private Axiom-2 mission has docked with the International Space Station to begin an eight-day science mission aboard the outpost.
This is the second mission to the ISS by an Axiom Space crew, which used a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft to reach the orbiting laboratory. Aboard is Axiom Space astronaut (and former NASA astronaut) Peggy Whitson as spacecraft commander, entrepreneur John Shoffner as the pilot, and two astronauts from Saudi Arabia — Ali AlQarni and Rayyanah Barnawi.
“With this international collaboration, this shows how space brings everyone together,” said Barnawi, who is the first Arab woman to fly to space. “It brings [together] even different backgrounds. Some of us are doctors. Some of us are researchers, engineers and so on. I’m very happy to be here representing the dreams and hopes of everyone back home.”
Dragon docked autonomously at the space-facing port of the Harmony module at 9:12 a.m. EDT (13:12 UTC) May 22, 2023. SpaceX said this was the fastest launch to docking for a Dragon capsule at 16 hours, 35 minutes.
The four person crew opened hatches a couple hours later at about 10 a.m. (14:00 UTC) to join the seven-person Expedition 69 crew, which includes NASA astronauts Frank Rubio, Stephen Bowen and Warren Hoburg, Emirati astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi and Russian cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev, Dmitry Petelin and Andrey Fedyaev.
With only eight days scheduled at the outpost, the Axiom-2 crew is expected to be very busy performing a number of tasks, including more than 20 different experiments and technology demonstrations.
This is the first spaceflight for Shoffner, Alqarni and Barnawi. However, this is the fourth time Whitson has been to the ISS, the other three having occurred while she was a NASA astronaut.
Whitson holds the record for the most time spent in space by an American astronaut — 665 days during her three long-duration ISS missions, plus the planned 10-day duration of the Axiom-2 flight.
The current plan is for the Axiom-2 mission to undock from the space station on May 30 before the spacecraft performs a deorbit burn to reenter Earth’s atmosphere and a parachute assisted splashdown in the ocean off the coast of Florida.
Video courtesy of SpaceX
Derek Richardson has a degree in mass media, with an emphasis in contemporary journalism, from Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas. While at Washburn, he was the managing editor of the student run newspaper, the Washburn Review. He also has a website about human spaceflight called Orbital Velocity. You can find him on twitter @TheSpaceWriter.