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Four-man crew arrives at ISS with Turkey's first astronaut

January 20, 2024

The astronauts will spend two weeks aboard the International Space Station to study the effects of microgravity on the human body, among other things. The mission was launched commercially by Axiom Space.

People watching a livestream of the Ax-3 mission docking with the ISS
The docking of the crew capsule with the ISS was livestreamedImage: Cem Tekkesinoglu/Anadolu/picture alliance

A four-man space crew that included Turkey's first astronaut docked with the International Space Station (ISS) on Saturday.

The mission, dubbed Ax-3, was chartered by commercial operator Axiom Space.

It used a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon capsule that was launched from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

The Ax-3 SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launching
The mission used a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched from Cape CanaveralImage: Chris O'Meara/AP/dpa/picture alliance

"The ride uphill was pretty exciting. It never gets old," said Axiom commander Michael Lopez-Alegria.

"I think we probably spent a few more hours in Dragon than we felt like we needed to. But it was all good."

It was the first time all four seats in the capsule had been purchased by national space agencies rather than wealthy individuals.

Who was on board?

The Ax-3 crew was led by Lopez-Alegria, a Spanish-born retired NASA astronaut who nowadays serves as an Axiom executive.

His second-in-command was Italian Air Force Colonel Walter Villadei.

The four astronauts of the Ax-3 mission
The Ax-3 mission doubled the number of nationalities aboard the ISSImage: Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu/picture alliance

They were joined Swedish aviator Marcus Wandt representing the European Space Agency and Turkish air force veteran Alper Gezeravci, who represented the Turkish Space Agency and became his country's first ever astronaut.

The Ax-3 crew were welcomed with hugs by the seven crew members already aboard the ISS. They are from the United States, Russia, Japan and Denmark.

"We have doubled the number of nationalities on board the space station, going from four to eight, which I think is a great testament to the international collaboration which underpins this marvelous space station," said ISS commander Andreas Mogensen in a livestream.

Alper Gezeravci waving to relatives at Cape Canaveral
Alper Gezeravci is Turkey's first astronautImage: Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu/picture alliance

The new arrivals will spend two weeks conducting around 30 experiments to learn more about the impact of microgravity on the human body, among other things.

zc/jcg (AFP, Reuters)