Credit: SpaceX

The Ax-2 crew aboard the SpaceX Dragon Freedom spacecraft safely splashed down off the coast of Florida at 11:04 p.m. EDT on May 30, 2023. The crew’s return officially concludes the second all-private astronaut mission to the International Space Station (ISS). The Ax-2 crew includes Axiom Space’s Director of Human Spaceflight and Commander Peggy Whitson, a former NASA astronaut, Pilot John Shoffner, and Mission Specialists Ali Alqarni and Rayyanah Barnawi, from the Saudi Space Commission (SSC). Both are members of the inaugural Saudi national astronaut class. 

The Ax-2 crew spent eight days aboard the ISS, orbited the Earth 126 times, and traveled 3,331,440 miles. During the mission, the Ax-2 crew conducted more than 20 research experiments and served as research subjects to better understand the impacts of microgravity on the human body, as well as established methods for the utility of novel technologies that could be used for future human spaceflight pursuits and improving life on Earth. Additionally, the crew carried out over 20 STEAM (science, technology, engineering, the arts, and math) engagements.

The Ax-2 mission made history on many fronts. Ax-2 was the first commercial mission with both private and government-sponsored astronauts. Peggy Whitson is now the first female commander of a private space mission, adding to her accomplishment as the first female commander of the ISS and standing 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 to go to space. In addition, John Shoffner became the first person from the U.S. state of Alaska to fly to space.

Axiom Space is the commercial space industry's only full-service orbital mission provider, conducting end-to-end crewed missions to the International Space Station. Axiom Space's broad range of services includes training and flying private astronauts, access to training facilities and instructors, hardware and safety certification, and operational on-orbit management. Candidates for flight complete Axiom Space's rigorous training curriculum over many months in preparation to live and conduct meaningful work in space. The expert team at Axiom Space is helping nations and organizations build human spaceflight programs, develop astronaut selection programs, and provide the expertise needed to expand the international community of space explorers to a larger and more diverse representation of humanity.    

Source: Axiom Space

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Kris Christiaens

This article was published by FutureSpaceFlight founder and chief editor Kris Christiaens. Kris Christiaens has been passionate and fascinated by spaceflight and space exploration all his life and has written hundreds of articles on space projects, the commercial space industry and space missions over the past 20 years for magazines, books and websites. In late 2021, he founded the website FutureSpaceFlight with the goal of promoting new space companies and commercial space projects and compiling news of these start-ups and companies on one website.