Watch private Ax-3 astronauts return to Earth in SpaceX capsule on Feb. 9 (video)


A SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule will return to Earth Friday morning (Feb. 9), wrapping up the private Ax-3 astronaut mission.

Ax-3’s Crew Dragon “Freedom” is expected to make a parachute-aided ocean splashdown off the coast of Florida on Friday around 8:30 a.m. EST (1330 GMT), according to NASA.

You can watch the reentry action live via SpaceX’s account on X (formerly known as Twitter), or via Axiom Space, the Houston-based company that organized Ax-3.

Related: Live updates from the Ax-3 private astronaut mission

a white cone-shaped spacecraft backs away from a cube-shaped port covered in wires and hoses

a white cone-shaped spacecraft backs away from a cube-shaped port covered in wires and hoses

Ax-3 launched atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on Jan. 18 and arrived at the International Space Station (ISS) in the early morning hours of Jan. 20.

The mission consists of four crewmembers: Commander Michael López-Alegría, a former NASA spaceflyer who’s now Axiom Space’s chief astronaut; pilot Walter Villadei, a colonel in the Italian Air Force; mission specialist Alper Gezeravcı, the first citizen of Turkey ever to reach space; and mission specialist Marcus Wandt, an ESA reserve astronaut.

The quartet performed more than 30 scientific experiments during their time aboard the ISS, including work in physics and space medicine.

“Data collected on ground before and after the mission as well as in flight will impact understanding of human physiology on Earth and on orbit, as well as advance scientific understanding, harness opportunities for industrial advancements, and develop technologies for humanity’s progress,” Axiom Space wrote in a mission description.

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Freedom undocked from the ISS on Wednesday (Feb. 7) at 9:20 a.m. EST (1420 GMT), ending Ax-3’s stay aboard the orbiting lab. That stay was expected to end on Saturday (Feb. 3), but bad weather in the splashdown zone pushed it back four days.

“It’s been an incredible, busy and fun-filled two weeks up here,” López-Alegría said during a livestreamed departure ceremony aboard the ISS on Friday (Feb. 2). I am very proud of my Ax-3 crewmates, who helped their agencies achieve all of their science objectives, technology demonstrations, as well as the outreach events.

“It’s been a real pleasure and honor to have you onboard the International Space Station,” European Space Agency astronaut Andreas Mogensen, who commands the station’s current Expedition 70 mission, said during the ceremony. “You guys have been great crewmates.”

Ax-3 is the sixth spaceflight for López-Alegría. Among his previous missions was Ax-1, which flew to the ISS in April 2022; he is the only person ever to have ridden Dragon to orbit twice.

The other three Ax-3 astronauts had never been to orbit before, though Villadei did reach suborbital space with Virgin Galactic in June 2023.





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