Ax-3 Private Astronauts Prepare for Earth Return Amid Groundbreaking Research

International Space Station Soars Into an Orbital Sunset

The International Space Station soars 266 miles above the coast of Argentina near the Rio de la Plata as it flies into an orbital sunset. In the foreground from left are, the station’s main solar arrays, the Canadarm2 robotic arm, and the Kibo laboratory module’s external platform. Credit: NASA

Four private astronauts comprising the Axiom Mission 3 (Ax-3) crew continue to target Tuesday for their departure from the International Space Station and return to Earth. In the meantime, the seven Expedition 70 crew members are continuing their schedule of advanced microgravity research and orbital lab maintenance.

Ax-3 Commander Michael López-Alegría readied the SpaceX Dragon Freedom spacecraft for its undocking scheduled for no earlier than 9:05 a.m. EST on Tuesday. (This departure has now been scrubbed due to unfavorable weather conditions off the coast of Florida.) The veteran astronaut transferred emergency gear from Dragon into the station and then stowed completed science experiments and their samples inside science freezers aboard the commercial spacecraft.

Four Expedition 70 Astronauts Pose for a Fun Portrait Inside Their Crew Quarters

Four Expedition 70 astronauts pose for a fun portrait inside their crew quarters aboard the International Space Station’s Harmony module. Clockwise from left are, Commander Andreas Mogensen from ESA (European Space Agency), Flight Engineer Satoshi Furukawa from JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency), and Flight Engineers Loral O’Hara and Jasmin Moghbeli, both from NASA. Credit: NASA

NASA Flight Engineer Jasmin Moghbeli assisted with the emergency hardware transfers stowing masks, gloves, sensors, and medical kits, back inside the station. Station Commander Andreas Mogensen from ESA (European Space Agency) also helped the Ax-3 crew as they cleaned up inside the station and prepared for the return to Earth.

Science Experiments and Maintenance

The rest of the Ax-3 crew, including Pilot Walter Villadei and Mission Specialists Alper Gezeravcı and Marcus Wandt, also packed Dragon with return cargo such as personal items, computer and electronics gear, and more science experiments. The private crew is spending the rest of the day exercising, videotaping crew activities, and looking at the Earth below from the cupola.

Join ESA project astronaut Marcus Wandt inside the seven-windowed cupola, the International Space Station’s “window to the world.” Credit: ESA–M. Wandt

Science continued aboard the orbital outpost on Monday as the Expedition 70 crew explored an array of life science topics including how weightlessness affects immunity and botany. The orbital residents also worked inside a pair of cargo spaceships and maintained critical life support systems.

NASA Flight Engineers Loral O’Hara and Moghbeli took turns unpacking some of the several tons of cargo packed inside the Northrop Grumman Cygnus space freighter. The pair later helped the Ax-3 crew stow science experiments and computer gear inside Dragon. Flight Engineer Satoshi Furukawa from JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) also assisted with the Cygnus cargo work then set up hardware to explore how plant-microbe interactions are affected in microgravity. Mogensen spent his morning processing his blood and saliva samples for an investigation exploring how a crew member’s immunity system changes during a space mission.

Roscosmos Flight Engineers Oleg Kononenko and Nikolai Chub partnered together and tested the communications system inside the Progress 85 resupply ship before it departs the station next week. Kononenko then worked on cargo and fluid transfers inside the Progress 85. Chub moved into the Poisk module for computer maintenance. Flight Engineer Konstantin Borisov worked on hardware supporting a pair of Earth observation studies, inventoried ventilation hardware, and serviced orbital plumbing components.

1 Comment on "Ax-3 Private Astronauts Prepare for Earth Return Amid Groundbreaking Research"

  1. Mmm…”monogamous!”

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