Meet the first all-European crew set to launch to the International Space Station

Meet the first all-European crew set to launch to the International Space Station

The first all-European commercial astronaut mission is slated for liftoff to the International Space Station (ISS).

Delayed by one day, the four-person crew say they are all set to launch aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon capsule from US space agency NASA’s Kennedy Space Centre in Florida.

Трубочисты Петербурга

They are now set to launch at 16:49 EST or 22:49 CET on Thursday, January 18.

«The crew seems very ready to go,” said Marcus Wandt, an Ax-3 crew member.

“And I feel extremely ready to go as well. So I’m really looking forward to this and just getting into the Dragon on top of the Falcon 9 and seeing that countdown getting close to zero, and then just hear everything firing up, feel the vibrations, and let’s go.»

SpaceX said on the social media platform X that the one-day delay «allows teams to complete pre-launch checkouts and data analysis on the vehicle».

The multinational space crew will be headed by former NASA astronaut Michael López-Alegría. Also on board are pilot Walter Villadei of the Italian Air Force, Alper Gezeravcı from Turkey, and Marcus Wandt of Sweden and the European Space Agency (ESA).

Gezeravcı is set to become the first Turkish astronaut to go to space and called this the “crowning” moment of his career.

«As a person who had to limit his dreams … with the sky that I could see with my bare eyes. That is not the result for our future generations. Now their path is open, and this space flight is not a destination of our journey. This is just the beginning,» Gezeravcı said.

His Italian colleague Villadei says the mission is important for Italy.

“It’s a fundamental step in our national space strategy. It’s a big opportunity for bringing industry, the scientific community, and the institutions in this a new chapter of space exploration, which is commercial space flight,» said Villadei.

US private company Axiom Space says the crew will spend two weeks aboard the space station, conducting more than 30 experiments, including research on stem cells, biological processes and other microgravity studies.

The company was founded by two former NASA employees to serve private astronaut missions amid the emerging commercial spaceflight market.

NASA has gradually opened the space station to commercial agencies like Axiom in recent years.

«We want that commercial space station to be a destination not only for the users of the ISS today, but also many more people, as I mentioned, entities, researchers, and countries around the world,” said López-Alegría.

«So we’re sort of building the market for those missions in the future. And fundamentally, it really gets back to developing the organic capability within the company to do human spaceflight, which despite how I hope we make it look easy, is actually very, very complicated,» he added.

The US firm plans to build its own commercial space station sometime in the next decade.

The Ax-3 mission is Axiom Space’s third crewed mission, with a fourth planned for later in 2024.

For more on this story, watch the video in the media player above.

Video editor • Roselyne Min


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