Marcus Wandt to Participate in Third Axiom Space Mission, Journeying to the International Space Station

ESA project astronaut Marcus Wandt from Sweden has been selected to travel to the International Space Station (ISS) on Axiom Mission 3 (Ax-3). This mission, set to take place in January 2024, will mark the first commercial human spaceflight mission with an ESA-sponsored astronaut.

Marcus Wandt, who will serve as a mission specialist, will be under the command of Michael López-Alegría, Axiom Space’s chief astronaut. Marcus will represent both the USA and Spain as a dual citizen. The Ax-3 mission will last up to 14 days on board the ISS.

Supported by ESA and the Swedish National Space Agency (SNSA), Marcus’s mission, called Muninn, is part of ESA’s effort to support a new generation of space explorers utilizing commercial access to space. ESA’s Director of Human and Robotic Exploration, Daniel Neuenschwander, believes that this new approach will not only contribute to the European economy but also expand our knowledge beyond Earth.

Joining Marcus on the Ax-3 mission are Walter Villadei, an Italian Air Force colonel and pilot, and Alper Gezeravci from Türkiye, who will serve as a Mission Specialist. All three crew members have extensive flight experience and have served in their nation’s air forces.

Michael López-Alegría, former NASA astronaut and Ax-1 mission commander, views this crew as pioneers of the emerging commercial space industry. He believes that their mission will transform how governments and space agencies access and benefit from microgravity, positioning European nations at the forefront of this industry.

For the first time, Europe is collaborating with a commercial space company, Axiom Space, to send an astronaut to the ISS. Frank De Winne, ESA’s ISS Programme Manager, emphasizes that this partnership aims to demonstrate how fast-track, short-duration missions can generate valuable scientific research, outreach, education, and benefits for life on Earth.

The Ax-3 mission will be launched using a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and a Crew Dragon spacecraft from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, USA. Once docked with the ISS, Marcus Wandt will conduct microgravity research and educational activities for up to 14 days.

To prepare for his space journey, Marcus is undergoing a rigorous training program in Europe, the USA, Canada, and Japan. This training ensures that he meets the high standards required for human spaceflight.

To follow Marcus Wandt’s space journey, you can visit ESA’s Exploration blog, X, and Instagram.

In conclusion, the upcoming Ax-3 mission represents a significant milestone for ESA and European space exploration. By partnering with Axiom Space, ESA is embracing the commercial space industry and paving the way for a new era of space exploration. Marcus Wandt’s participation in this mission not only showcases Sweden’s contribution to space exploration but also demonstrates the collaborative effort between ESA, Axiom Space, and other international partners. As the world eagerly awaits the launch of Ax-3 in January 2024, we can expect groundbreaking research and educational activities to further our understanding of microgravity and its potential benefits for life on Earth.