The second Axiom Space private mission (Ax-2) is over after ten days in orbit including eight on the International Space Station (ISS). The mission lifted off from Kennedy Space Center on May 21, onboard a Falcon 9 rocket.
Ax-2 crew, onboard the Crew Dragon Freedom, undocked from the ISS on May 29, 2023, at 15:45 am UTC.
The spacecraft splashed down in the Gulf of Mexico on May 30, 2023, at 4:04 am UTC and was rescued by the recovery ship.
The crew returned to Earth bringing with them the data that will help move one step closer to building Axiom Station, the world’s first commercial space station.
The data will also help to understand human physiology on Earth and in orbit, as well as establish the utility of novel technologies that could be used for future human spaceflight pursuits and benefit humankind on Earth.
During their time in space, the Ax-2 astronauts executed over twenty different experiments, connected with schools, and made many media events.
The Ax-2 members are Axiom Space’s Director of Human Spaceflight Peggy Whitson (also a former NASA astronaut), private astronaut John Shoffner, and government-founded astronauts Ali Alqarni and Rayyanah Barnawi from the Saudi Space Commission (SSC).
Peggy Whitson is now the first female commander of a private space mission; she also broke her own record for the longest cumulative time in space by an American astronaut (674 days).
Ali Alqarni and Rayyanah Barnawi are the first Saudi astronauts to visit the ISS and Rayyanah Barnawi is the first Saudi female astronaut to go to space.
Ax-2 was also the first commercial mission with both private and government-sponsored astronauts.
For some hours between the arrival of three new taikonauts at the Tiangong Space Station and the Ax-2 undocking, there were 17 astronauts in orbit, an absolute record. The previous record of 14 people was set in 2021 with SpaceX’s Inspiration4 mission.