SpaceX Launches First Turkish Astronaut on Private European Space Mission

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Liftoff and Mission Overview

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket successfully launched the Axiom-3 mission towards the International Space Station (ISS) from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on January 18 at 4:49 p.m. EST. The mission, organized by Axiom Space in collaboration with SpaceX and NASA, aims to further private sector-led space exploration. The Crew Dragon capsule, named “Freedom,” carries a diverse crew, including the first astronaut from Turkey, Alper Gezeravcı, along with Walter Villadei from the Italian air force and Marcus Wandt, a member of the European Space Agency’s astronaut reserve.

Delays and Technical Challenges

Originally scheduled for January 17, the liftoff faced a one-day delay due to final checks, particularly related to parachutes on the Crew Dragon capsule. Benji Reed, SpaceX’s senior director of human spaceflight programs, reported that the team addressed these issues over the weekend, ensuring a safe launch on Thursday.

Axiom-3: Government-Funded Seats and Military Backgrounds

A notable aspect of the Axiom-3 mission is that it marks the first time a government or space agency has purchased all the seats. Gezeravcı’s seat is covered by the Turkish government, Villadei’s by the Italian air force, and Wandt’s by the European Space Agency. This shift highlights a departure from previous Axiom missions, where seats were available for purchase by private individuals.

Axiom’s Business Model and Future Plans

Axiom’s approach aligns with NASA’s vision of encouraging private industry investment in space travel. Axiom, founded by Michael Suffredini, a former ISS program manager at NASA, not only offers private spaceflights but also plans to build its own private space station. The company aims to replace the aging ISS, which may be decommissioned as early as 2030. This mission, part of Axiom’s series, underscores the potential of private enterprises contributing to the future of space exploration.

Research in Space and Mission Duration

The Axiom-3 crew is set to spend 14 days on the ISS, engaging in over 30 experiments. The research encompasses diverse areas, from studying motion sickness in space to examining proteins linked to neurodegenerative diseases. Axiom President Matt Ondler mentioned the surplus of research demand, indicating the growing interest and opportunities for scientific exploration in the microgravity environment of the ISS.


As SpaceX continues to facilitate private astronaut missions to the ISS, the Axiom-3 mission stands out for its diverse crew composition, government-funded seats, and the scientific research agenda. This mission not only marks a historic moment for Turkey with its first astronaut in space but also exemplifies the evolving landscape of space exploration, with private entities playing an increasingly prominent role.

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