A group of four European astronauts landed off the coast of Florida, in the United States, this Friday morning (9). With this, Axiom Space completed its third mission to the International Space Station (ISS).
The mission, called Axiom 3 (Ax-3), was the company’s first launch in which the three paid seats were purchased by national agencies.
A live broadcast showed a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule, called Freedom, parachuted into the Atlantic Ocean, where it was intercepted and placed on a recovery ship.
“I am very proud of my Ax-3 crewmates who helped their agencies achieve all of their science goals, technology demonstrations and outreach events,” said Axiom Chief Astronaut Michael López-Alegría, former Axiom astronaut. NASA, in a farewell ceremony before returning to Earth.
Initially, the mission was supposed to last two weeks, but the return was delayed by several days due to bad weather, which resulted in a final 18-day stay on the ISS.
Along with López-Alegría were Turkish Air Force pilot and colonel Alper Gezeravci; Italian Air Force Colonel Walter Villadei, who had previously flown to the edge of space in a Virgin Galactic spacecraft; and Swedish Marcus Wandt, who also represented the European Space Agency (ESA).
Countries with space programs are increasingly turning to the private sector to achieve their space ambitions. Turkey, whose astronaut participated for the first time, celebrated the mission as a sign of its growing importance on the world stage.
The crew carried out 30 experiments, deepening knowledge about the impact of microgravity on the human body and the advancement of industrial processes.
Axiom Space was founded in 2016 by Michael Suffredini, former director of the ISS program at NASA, and businessman Kam Ghaffarian.
In addition to organizing private missions to the orbital station, the company develops spacesuits for future NASA missions to the Moon.
It is also building a commercial space station that it intends, initially, to dock with the ISS, and then separate and orbit it independently at some point before the latter’s withdrawal.
The exact costs of the Ax-3 have not been revealed, but in 2018, when the company first announced the program, involving leasing hardware from SpaceX and paying NASA for the services, it set the price at $55 million ($ 200 million at the time) per seat.