SpaceX Dragon carrying Axiom-3 astronauts returns to Earth after a week delay - Hindustan Times
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SpaceX Dragon carrying Axiom-3 astronauts returns to Earth with splashdown near Daytona Beach| Watch

ByShweta Kukreti
Feb 09, 2024 08:49 PM IST

A SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule returned to Earth on Friday, wrapping up the private Ax-3 astronaut mission that was launched three weeks ago.

A SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule returned to Earth on Friday, wrapping up the private Axiom-3 astronaut mission that was launched nearly three weeks ago from the Kennedy Space Center.

The four astronauts of Axiom Space's Ax-3 mission 4.(Axiom Space)
The four astronauts of Axiom Space's Ax-3 mission 4.(Axiom Space)

On Wednesday, February 7, at 9:20 a.m. EST (1420 GMT), Crew Dragon spacecraft ‘Freedom’ undocked from the International Space Station (ISS) over the Pacific Ocean, bringing an end to Ax-3's tenure in orbit. It then flew freely in orbit for two days before breaking through the atmosphere on Friday and making its way back to Earth over the Atlantic Ocean.

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“It made a successful splashdown touchdown off the coast of Daytona Beach around 8.30 am on February 9,” an official statement said.

Freedom was originally scheduled to undock from the ISS on Saturday, February 3, but inclement weather in the splashdown zone caused it to be postponed by four days.

Chartered by Houston-based company Axiom Space, A-3 mission was launched on January 18 on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, and it reached the International Space Station (ISS) early on January 20.

Also Read: NASA turns iconic picture taken by Hubble Telescope into an interesting puzzle. Can you solve it?

Axiom-3 astronauts share their ‘amazing’ experience

The crew members include pilot Walter Villadei, a colonel in the Italian Air Force; mission specialist Alper Gezeravcı, the first Turkish citizen to reach space, and mission specialist Marcus Wandt, an European Space Agency (ESA) reserve astronaut. Commander Michael López-Alegría is the chief astronaut of Axiom Space and a former NASA spaceflyer.

"We've had an amazing, hectic, and enjoyable two weeks up here," Lopez-Alegría remarked at a farewell ceremony prior to the crew's undocking, Space.com reported.

“I am very proud of my Ax-3 crewmates, who helped their agencies achieve all of their science objectives, technology demonstrations, as well as the outreach events.”

Axiom-3 astronauts conducted over 30 scientific experiments

During their stay on the ISS, the astronauts conducted over thirty scientific experiments, encompassing research in the fields of physics and space medicine.

"Data collected on ground before and after the mission as well as in flight will impact understanding of human physiology on Earth and on orbit, as well as advance scientific understanding, harness opportunities for industrial advancements, and develop technologies for humanity's progress," Axiom Space said in a mission description.

Also Read: NASA shares iconic throwback pic of astronaut who performed first untethered spacewalk 40 years ago

Ax-3 mission was commanded by ex-NASA astronaut Michael López-Alegría, who also commanded Ax-1 in 2022.(Axiom)
Ax-3 mission was commanded by ex-NASA astronaut Michael López-Alegría, who also commanded Ax-1 in 2022.(Axiom)

Astronaut Andreas Mogensen of the ESA, who is now leading the ISS' Expedition 70 mission, stated, “It's been a real pleasure and honor to have you onboard the International Space Station. You guys have been great crewmates.”

Being the only person to have flown aboard Dragon to orbit twice, it was the sixth spaceflight for López-Alegría. Earlier, he was the part of Ax-1 mission, which flew to the ISS in April 2022.

While Villadei did make it to suborbital space with Virgin Galactic in June 2023, the other three Ax-3 astronauts had never flown in orbit before.

WATCH the launch of mission here

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