The Axiom Mission 2 (Ax-2) crew successfully launched to the International Space Station (ISS) on May 21, 2023. The crew is soon to return, with departure & return from the ISS planned for the 30th of May. The four-person crew is composed of:

  • Peggy Whitson, Commander: Whitson is a former NASA astronaut who holds the record for the most cumulative days in space of any US astronaut at 665 days.
  • John Shoffner, Pilot: Shoffner is a commercial astronaut who has been training for this mission for over two years. He is a former fighter pilot and test pilot.
  • Rayyanah Barnawi, Mission Specialist: Barnawi is a Saudi Arabian astronaut, a biomedical scientist by background. She is also the first Saudi Arabian woman to go to space.
  • Ali AlQarni, Mission Specialist: AlQarni is a Saudi Arabian astronaut, with experience as a military pilot with 12 years of flying experience and over 2,000 hours flown.

The Ax-2 mission is the second all-private astronaut mission to the ISS. The crew will spend eight days on the ISS conducting scientific research, outreach, and commercial activities.

The crew aims to complete the following activities while aboard the ISS:

  • Investigating the effects of microgravity on the human body: The crew will conduct experiments with a gravity loading suit, intended to mitigate against the effects of sustained microgravity.
  • Life Sciences Experiments: 
    • The crew will produce DNA Nanomaterials, utilizing the microgravity environment to produce DNA-inspired nanomaterials. A capability with which further development leads to novel methods of drug delivery, tissue engineering, and regenerative medicine.
    • Experiments on Stem Cell growth
    • Cancer experiments to produce cellular models, which could to better predict and detect cancer developing
  • Conducting outreach: The crew will also conduct outreach activities to inspire people to pursue careers in STEM, through presentations, interviews, live talks and practical experiments demonstrated for students from the ISS. 

The Ax-2 mission marks a further milestone in the commercialization of space. Nations are now able to contract private companies to launch their astronauts to space for research on the ISS. The success of this mission will pave the way for more private astronaut missions in the future.

Congratulations to the Ax-2 crew on their successful launch! We wish them a safe and productive mission.