Axiom-2 crew back on Earth after capsule splashes down in Gulf
After nearly 10 days in space, the all-private Axiom-2 astronauts are back on Earth, having splashed down in their Dragon capsule in the water off the coast of Florida.
Axiom-2 splashed down at 11:04 p.m. May 30 (15:04 UTC May 31), 2023, off the coast of Panama City, Florida, in the Gulf of Mexico. Aboard was Axiom Space astronaut (and former NASA astronaut) Peggy Whitson, commercial astronaut John Shoffner, and Saudi Arabian astronauts Ali AlQarni and Rayyanah.
“SpaceX, we would like to tell you that was a phenomenal ride,” Whitson, the mission’s commander said following splashdown. “We really enjoyed all of it. You guys are the best.”
This was the first spaceflight for all but Whitson, who previously flew to the International Space Station as a NASA astronaut during three long-duration missions between 2002 and 2017 culminating in 665 days — the most for any American astronaut and ninth most-time in space overall.
With Axiom-2, her time in space is now at 675 days.
Axiom-2 Dragon undocked at 11:05 a.m. EDT (15:05 UTC) May 30, 2023, from the space-facing port of the Harmony module. It slowly backed away from the International Space Station before beginning a 12-hour coast toward its eventual deorbit burn and reentry into Earth’s atmosphere.
Before undocking, the private four-person crew spent eight days performing a number of tasks, including more than 20 different experiments and technology demonstrations.
The Axiom-2 mission docked to the ISS on May 22 less than 17 hours after launching atop a Falcon 9 rocket at 5:37 pm. EDT (21:37 UTC) May 21 from Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
During the Axiom-2 crew’s time aboard the ISS, the space station’s population increased to 11 people — four from Axiom and seven from the Expedition 69 crew. Meanwhile, the Chinese launched three astronauts to their Tiangong space station in Shenzhou 16 at 9:31 p.m. EDT May 29 (01:31 UTC May 30).
They docked several hours later to replace the current three-person Shenzhou 15 crew aboard the Chinese space station.
With 11 on ISS and six on Tiangong, a record 17 people were in orbit today. That number is now down to 13 until the three-person Shenzhou 15 crew departs Tiangong later this week, at which point it will decrease to 10 people.
Following splashdown, the Crew Dragon capsule was picked up by SpaceX’s recovery ship Megan. Within under an hour, all four members of Axiom-2 were out of the capsule to receive initial medical checks.
They were then flown back to Kennedy Space Center where they will fly home to their destinations around the world.
This was Axiom Space’s second all-private mission to the International Space Station. The first occurred in April 2022. A third is expected later this year as the company prepares for its first space station modules to be launched to the ISS as early as late 2025.
Axiom Space plans to build its own space on the ISS. When it comes time for the decades-old ISS to be deorbited, the Axiom modules will be detached to form an independent station run by the company.
Video courtesy of SpaceX
Derek Richardson has a degree in mass media, with an emphasis in contemporary journalism, from Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas. While at Washburn, he was the managing editor of the student run newspaper, the Washburn Review. He also has a website about human spaceflight called Orbital Velocity. You can find him on twitter @TheSpaceWriter.