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First Europeans take off on commercial flight to Space Station

ESA project astronaut Marcus Wandt from Sweden blasted into space on the evening of January 18th from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, USA, at 21:49 GMT (22:49 CET, 16:49 local time). A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched the Axiom Mission 3 (Ax-3) crew of four astronauts from launch pad 39A.

Astronauts ready for takeoff

Marcus is sharing the ride on the Dragon capsule to the International Space Station with Walter Villadei from Italy, Alper Gezeravcı from Türkiye and Michael López-Alegría, a dual US-Spanish citizen.

Marcus is the first of a new generation of European astronauts to fly on a commercial human spaceflight opportunity with Axiom Space. Marcus’s mission is called Muninn.

Journey to space

Just two and half minutes into the flight, the Falcon 9 first stage separated to land back on Earth .

Marcus became weightless at around nine minutes after liftoff at 21:57 GMT (16:57 local time).

The rocket’s second stage shut off its engines and a small teddy bear started to float free inside the spacecraft – a zero gravity indicator to show the Ax-3 crew that they had reached orbit.

The trip to the International Space Station takes around 36 hours. The four astronauts are circling Earth at 28 800 km/h, safely heading towards their new home in orbit.

The journey to catch up with the Space Station is relatively calm because the Dragon spacecraft is designed to fly in a fully automated mode, requiring little input from the crew. Marcus travels as a mission specialist on the Dragon spacecraft.


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