Private Astronaut Axiom Ax-3 Mission Launches to Space Station

Ax-3 SpaceX Falcon 9 Rocket Launch

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft is launched on the Ax-3 mission to the space station. Credit: SpaceX

Axiom Mission 3 (Ax-3) launched four private astronauts gear to the space station today. Space botany and fluid research continued on Thursday for the Expedition 70 crew members as they await the arrival of Ax-3.

The third private astronaut mission to the International Space Station is lifted off from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 4:49 p.m. EST today, January 18. 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, launched aboard the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft. They are scheduled to arrive to the station at 5:15 a.m. on Saturday, January 20, the quartet will spend about two weeks conducting science and research in microgravity before returning to Earth.

NASA Astronaut Loral O’Hara Replaces Hardware

NASA astronaut and Expedition 70 Flight Engineer Loral O’Hara replaces hardware inside the Plant Habitat facility to prep for future experiments investigating genetic responses and immune system function of tomatoes in microgravity. Credit: NASA

After yesterday’s initial harvest aboard the orbital lab, the second and third round of wild-type tomatoes were harvested from Plant Habitat-06 by NASA Flight Engineer Loral O’Hara. The investigation takes a look at the physiological and genetic responses to defense activation and immune function in tomatoes during spaceflight. O’Hara also spent part of her day checking hardware for the upcoming arrival of Ax-3.

Fluid research that began yesterday continued into Thursday as Flight Engineers Jasmin Moghbeli of NASA and Satoshi Furukawa of JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) performed root tests for root zone, flow resistance, phase distribution, and stability in Plant Water Management 5. In the evening, the duo then conducted ultrasounds of their necks, clavicles, shoulders, and behind their knees.

Astronaut Jasmin Moghbeli Calibrates Ultrasonic Inspection Device

NASA astronaut and Expedition 70 Flight Engineer Jasmin Moghbeli works in the Harmony module and calibrates an ultrasonic inspection device that uses high-frequency sound waves to analyze materials aboard the International Space Station. Credit: NASA

ESA (European Space Agency) Commander Andreas Mogensen took over work with Plant Management 5, testing the performance of the separator and water trap before draining and stowing the facility.

Two Cosmonauts teamed up in the afternoon—Flight Engineers Oleg Kononenko and Nikolai Chub—to remove and replace the heat exchanger unit in the air conditioning system. Kononenko later conducted a cargo audit in the Prichal module. Flight Engineer Konstantin Borisov ran a Pilot-T session in the morning, an ongoing experiment to practice piloting techniques, before performing a storage audit in the Nauka module.

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