Axiom Astronauts Join ISS Crew As Station Prepares for Incoming Roscosmos Cargo Mission

SpaceX Freedom Dragon Crew Ship With Axiom Mission-2 Crew

The SpaceX Freedom Dragon crew ship with four Axiom Mission-2 private astronauts aboard is pictured approaching the International Space Station on May 22, 2023. Freedom, commanded by former NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson, with Pilot John Shoffner and Mission Specialists Ala Alqarni and Rayyanah Barnawi, docked to the Harmony module’s space-facing port at 9:12 a.m. EDT on Monday beginning eight days of docked operations with the seven-member Expedition 69 crew.

The International Space Station, currently housing 11 crew members with four docked spaceships, welcomes a private quartet from Axiom Mission-2 (Ax-2) while anticipating a fifth cargo-bearing spaceship. The private and existing crews are busy with both adjustment activities and ongoing space science, as they await an additional cargo shipment from Roscosmos.

11 crew members are living aboard the International Space Station (ISS) with four spaceships now docked to the orbiting lab. A fifth spaceship is due to launch on Wednesday, May 24, and arrive a few hours later with cargo to replenish the Expedition 69 crew.

Two SpaceX Dragon crew ships are docked adjacent to each other on the station’s Harmony module after the arrival of Axiom Mission-2 (Ax-2) aboard Dragon Freedom on Monday at 9:12 a.m. EDT. The four private astronauts from Axiom Space opened Freedom’s hatch at 11 a.m. and entered the station beginning eight days of docked operations.

The private quartet consisting of Commander Peggy Whitson, Pilot John Shoffner, and Mission Specialists Al Alqarni and Rayyanah Barnawi spent Tuesday getting familiar with station operations. They practiced preparing food and drinks, conducting hygiene practices, performing safety procedures, and operating lab equipment while getting used to living in space.

International Space Station Configuration May 22 2023

Four spaceships are docked at the space station including the SpaceX Dragon Endeavour and Freedom crew ships and Roscosmos’ Soyuz MS-23 crew ship and Progress 83 resupply ship. Credit: NASA

At the end of the day, the foursome joined the seven-member Expedition 69 crew and reviewed roles and responsibilities in the unlikely event of an emergency. The international crew of 11 located safety gear such as fire extinguishers and portable breathing gear, followed escape routes, and coordinated communications with mission controllers in response to fire, ammonia leak, or pressure leak events.

In the middle of the new crew adaptation activities, there was still time for ongoing space science and lab maintenance activities. NASA Flight Engineer Frank Rubio serviced a variety of components and swapped samples inside a research furnace and a fluorescence microscope. NASA Flight Engineer Woody Hoburg configured gear supporting a pharmaceutical study, while UAE (United Arab Emirates) astronaut Sultan Alneyadi set up the Stellar Stem Cells experiment, an Ax-2 investigation, that will explore regenerative medicine therapies.

NASA Flight Engineer Stephen Bowen spent his day with the Ax-2 crew and joined Commander Whitson transferring emergency gear and configuring safety hardware between Dragon Freedom and the space station. Bowen and former NASA astronaut Whitson are both Dragon crew ship commanders with Bowen leading the SpaceX Crew-6 mission aboard the Dragon Endeavour spacecraft.

The next mission to launch to the orbital outpost is an uncrewed cargo mission from Roscosmos counting down to its liftoff at 8:56 a.m. EDT on Wednesday from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The ISS Progress 84 (84P) cargo craft will dock to the Poisk module just under three-and-a-half hours later at 12:20 p.m. delivering about three tons of food, fuel, and supplies to the orbital residents. Expedition 69 Commander Sergey Prokopyev and Flight Engineer Dmitri Petelin will be on duty monitoring 84P’s arrival then open its hatch several hours later to begin offloading the new cargo.

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