This year, on January 18 at 00.49 a.m, 4 European astronauts launched with the SpaceX Crew Dragon named Freedom spacecraft from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida for the mission Axiom 3 (AX-3). The launch was planned to be on Wednesday and was postponed several hours in order to finish controlling the pre-launch check-outs and analyze the data.
The capsule has gone to space twice before this flight, spending a total of 179 days in space. The four person multinational crew consists of a commander, a pilot and two mission specialists. The crew is led by Michael López-Algería, a Spanish chief astronaut and former ISS commander. He is joined by three paying passengers who are Walter Villadei from Italy, Marcus Wandt from Sweden and Alper Gezeravcı from Türkiye.
The significance of this flight for Türkiye is Alper Gezeravcı being the first Turkish person to go to space. The first words of the Turkish astronaut in space were a famous quote from Atatürk, the commander and the savior of the Turkish nation, “The future is in the skies.”. TÜBİTAK Space Technologies Research Institute’s project manager Ömer Atas suggested that “Our astronaut will not be just taking experiments to space, but the hopes and dreams of our entire nation,” explaining the importance and value of this mission.
Let’s now talk about the details of the mission. The crew joined the 7 other people at the International Space Station and they are planning on plotting experiments, recording data on the following days on the topic of the long-term effects of the zero gravity environment on stem cells. In their 14-days-long time in space, the crew will conduct around 30 experiments to advance a better scientific understanding. Moreover, these experiments will cover several different scientific disciplines involving human physiology, biology, medicine and even gastronomy!
The Axiom 3 mission will make the world gain a better understanding and have better technologies into robotic assets and increasing, deepening and advancing our knowledge while also contributing to the future plans of building infrastructures for colonies in space. Furthermore, the results of these experiments will not only guide us in colonizing Mars but also they will guide us in the rescue actions in places like the Arctic. The Italian Space Operations Centre (ISOC) helps the ISS during these experiments to process the data.
Türkiye will conduct a special experiment called the Vokalkord as well. The Vokalkord experiment will focus on developing an Artificial Intelligence system for the detection of over 70 diseases from many different systems of the human body by analyzing the actions of the respiratory system such as coughing. This project will develop a software for a usage on Earth to diagnose lung, voice and vocal cord cancer and infectious diseases.
Italy will lead an experiment that will be studying amyloid beta (Aβ) proteins, which disrupt the normal folding of proteins and are related to neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s. The experiment will help people to gain a deeper understanding on how microgravity affects the folding of the proteins and whether being exposed to microgravity for a long term is detrimental in the aspect of neurodegenerative diseases.
The European Space Agency (ESA) will be studying bone health. We already know that microgravity and immobility affects bone density and increases fragility as well as the possibility of an injury. This project will specifically focus on what happens to the level of bone loss upon re-entry after human spaceflight missions.
All in all, this new Axiom 3 Mission will be studying biology related topics by conducting several experiments as a four people multinational crew. These experiments will enlighten humanity and the studies on microgravity and its impacts both on Earth and space.
Axiom Mission 3 (Ax-3) - NASA. Accessed 23 Jan. 2024.
“Ax-3 Mission.” Axiom Space. Accessed 23 Jan. 2024.
“SpaceX Launches 4 People for a Private Mission to the International Space Station.” NPR, 18 Jan. 2024. Accessed 24 Jan. 2024.
Robert Lea. “Axiom Space’s 3rd Private Mission Will Conduct Pioneering Microgravity Experiments on ISS.” Space.com, 3 Dec. 2023. Accessed 24 Jan. 2024.