NASA has given the green light for Axiom’s third private mission to the International Space Station (ISS), scheduled to launch in January 2024. The four-person crew for this mission has been approved, with Axiom Space’s chief astronaut and former NASA astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria leading the mission as commander. Italian Air Force Col. Walter Villadei will serve as the pilot, while the two mission specialists are Alper Gezeravci from Turkey and ESA project astronaut Marcus Wandt from Sweden.
The crew will travel to the ISS in a Crew Dragon spacecraft, which will be launched using a Falcon 9 rocket. Once they have successfully docked, the crew will spend 14 days onboard the ISS.
NASA sees private astronaut missions as a way to expand the possibilities of space travel. By allowing commercial space flight, NASA aims to develop a thriving low-Earth orbit ecosystem and marketplace, enabling more nations, people, and opportunities in space.
Lopez-Alegria expressed excitement about this mission, stating that it will shift the paradigm of how governments and space agencies access and benefit from microgravity. He looks forward to working with the team and all those who will support the mission on the ground, in orbit, and around the world.
In addition to expanding space travel possibilities, NASA also hopes that private space missions will help reduce costs, freeing up funding for the upcoming Artemis moon mission. The agency’s goal is to create a strong commercial marketplace in low-Earth orbit, where NASA is just one of many customers for private industry. This strategy will provide the government with necessary services at a lower cost, allowing NASA to focus on its Artemis missions in preparation for Mars.
Overall, NASA’s approval of Axiom’s third private mission signifies a step forward in the development of commercial space travel and exploration.