WASHINGTON: An all-European quartet of astrona­uts, including Turkiye’s first, splashed down off the Florida coast on Friday mor­ning, completing Axi­om Space’s third private mission to the International Space Station.

The Axiom Mission 3 (Ax-3) was the company’s first launch where all three paid seats were bought by national agencies rather than wealthy individuals.

A livestream showed a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule named “Freedom” float down on parachutes to the Atlantic Ocean, where it was intercepted and brought aboard a recovery boat.

“I am very proud of my Ax-3 crewmates who helped their agencies achieve all of their science objectives, technology demonstrations and outreach events,” Axiom’s chief astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria, a Spanish and US citizen and former Nasa astronaut said in a farewell ceremony before the crew headed back to Earth.

The mission was initially meant to last two weeks, but the return journey was dela­yed by several days owing to bad weather, resulting in an 18-day stay on the ISS.

Lopez-Alegria was joined by Turkish pilot and air force colonel Alper Gezeravci, Walter Villadei, an Italian air force colonel who had previously flown to the edge of space on a Virgin Galactic space plane, and Marcus Wandt from Sweden, who was also representing the European Space Agency.

The crew carried out 30 experiments, learning more about the impact of microgravity on human body.

Published in Dawn, February 10th, 2024

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