Crew Preps for Private Astronaut Arrival as Ax-3 Mission Nears Launch

The SpaceX Dragon Freedom spacecraft is pictured docked to the space station on May 28, 2023, during Axiom Space's second private astronaut mission, Axiom Mission-2.
The SpaceX Dragon Freedom spacecraft is pictured docked to the space station on May 28, 2023, during Axiom Space’s second private astronaut mission, Axiom Mission-2.

Four private astronauts are readying for launch to the International Space Station this week while the Expedition 70 crew ramps up microgravity research and maintenance tasks after yesterday’s off-duty day.

The third private astronaut mission to the station, Axiom Mission 3 (Ax-3), is scheduled to liftoff from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 5:11 p.m. EST Wednesday, Jan. 17. Ax-3 crew members, Commander Michael López-Alegría, Pilot Walter Villadei of Italy, Mission Specialist Alper Gezeravcı of Turkey, and ESA (European Space Agency) project astronaut Marcus Wandt of Sweden, will make the trek to the orbital lab aboard the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft, docking at 5:15 a.m. Friday, Jan. 19. The quartet will spend about two weeks conducting science and research in microgravity before heading home.

Ahead of Ax-3 arrival, NASA Flight Engineer Loral O’Hara spent most of the day prepping station for new visitors. O’Hara inspected the airflow in crew quarters, prepped sleep accommodations for crew occupancy, and cleaned the liners and vents where the four private astronauts will sleep while aboard the orbital outpost.

ESA (European Space Agency) Commander Andreas Mogensen also prepped for Ax-3, completing training for Dragon rendezvous and docking. Afterward, he set up ECHO, which is equipped with motorized probs, for ground teams to perform remote maintenance activities.

While O’Hara and Mogensen prepped for Ax-3 crew arrival, other crew members took to space botany and biology tasks. NASA Flight Engineer Jasmin Moghbeli spent the day working with Plant Habitat-06, thinning wild-type tomato seedlings. Afterward, she set up and installed the Plant Water Management 5 hardware to the Maintenance Work Area.

JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) Flight Engineer Satoshi Furukawa removed culture units from the microscope used for the Space Organogenesis investigation, which demonstrates growth of organ buds from 3D printed human stem cells. Additionally, Furukawa collected water samples from the station’s potable water dispenser for in-flight analysis.

The Roscosmos trio—Flight Engineers Oleg Kononenko, Nikolai Chub, and Konstantin Borisov—performed an array of maintenance activities on Tuesday. Kononenko replaced hardware in the Zvezda service module, while Chub replaced the thermal control system pump panel in the Zarya module. Afterward, Chub conducted an experiment studying liquid phases in microgravity, while Borisov distilled samples from the Roscosmos segment water management system and conducted maintenance on the station’s vacuum cleaner.

Learn more about station activities by following the space station blog, @space_station and @ISS_Research on X, as well as the ISS Facebook and ISS Instagram accounts.

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