The Ax-3 mission will take off with a four-person crew and carry out 30 tests in 14 days

The Ax-3 spacecraft has taken off for the International Space Station. Launched at Cape Canaveral at 9:49pm Spanish time. It has 4 team members and for the first time in history, three are Europeans. Or, at least, the press has reported, because precisely, we are talking about four team members born on the European continent. The nuance may seem inconsequential, but given the headlines' focus, it's worth unpacking this point.

The case of Mission Commander López-Alegría was widely discussed in the media. He was born in Madrid and has Spanish citizenship, but he grew up in California, served in the US Navy and spent his entire career between America and space. And, of course, his other nationality is American. Likewise, another of the team members, Alber Kezeravsi, is from Turkiye. Walter, an Italian surnamed Villadei, and his partner, Swede Markus Wand, made up a total of four crew members sent on the mission.

However, none of this applies to the space industry at all. The Axiom mission, contracted to Space X and broadcast through NASA channels and funded by the European Space Agency, is a joint effort between several countries and organizations. The origin of its crew members is an ugly fact that appears in the headlines and has no significance. What really matters is its mission: sending four people to the International Space Station on a transfer that lasts 36 hours. Once there, the crew will spend 14 days conducting 30 scientific experiments.

The launch was on a Falcon 9 rocket, propelling a Dragon capsule in which the four crew members were still aboard. Already very proven and reliable technologies allow us to focus on a different area: those tests we were talking about. There is no doubt where the importance of this work lies.

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I do not know:

  • News is not always where the media reports it.

Notes (MLA):

  • “ESA – Axiom Ax-3 Patch, 2024 – European Space Agency.” European Space Agency, 19 October 2023

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