The first all-European commercial crew to head for the International Space Station (ISS) arrived safely at the orbital outpost on Saturday morning.
The Axiom-3 crewmembers — Marcus Wandt of Sweden; Michael López-Alegría, a dual citizen of the U.S. and Spain; Walter Villadei of Italy; and Alper Gezeravcı of Turkey — launched on Thursday from the Kennedy Space Center aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule powered to orbit by a Falcon 9 rocket.
Current ISS crewmembers Jasmin Moghbeli and Loral O’Hara recently shared some dramatic imagery showing the Crew Dragon as it approached the space station on Saturday morning.
The clip below, for example, shows the spacecraft as seen from the ISS.
Ax-3’s gorgeous approach to space station, now home to 11 people representing 8 countries! pic.twitter.com/38HbH6jW3Q
— Loral O'Hara (@lunarloral) January 21, 2024
Moghbeli shared four beautiful images also captured from the station, showing the Crew Dragon high above the Himalayas.
#Ax3 has arrived! I’m not sure they could have chosen a more scenic backdrop for their arrival. Excited to welcome @CommanderMLA, @WalterVilladei, @TURKastro, and @astro_marcus on board the @Space_Station! pic.twitter.com/ckqS2VgG10
— Jasmin Moghbeli (@AstroJaws) January 20, 2024
The arrival of the Axiom-3 crew brings the total number of people aboard the ISS to 11. Over the next couple of weeks, the four new arrivals will conduct more than 30 science experiments and take part in some 50 outreach events with organizations back home.
Axiom-3 is the third commercial mission to the ISS organized by Texas-based Axiom Space with backing from NASA and SpaceX. The first one took place in April 2022.
Villadei, Wandt, and Gezeravcı are believed to have paid tens of millions of dollars for the privilege of spending a couple of weeks in orbit.
Providing opportunities for private citizens to travel to space gives NASA an opportunity to grow a commercial economy in low-Earth orbit.
Expanding on its commercial efforts, Axiom Space is also aiming to build a commercial space station that could one day replace the ISS when the aging facility is taken out of service in about seven years from now.