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Updated January 13th, 2024 at 18:01 IST

Axiom Space's 3rd crewed mission is launching to ISS on Jan 18, and so is 'GiGi' The Bear

Launch of Axiom Space's crewed mission is scheduled for 3:41 am IST on January 18 on SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft from NASA's Kennedy Space Center.

Harsh Vardhan
axiom space
'GiGi' The Bear | Image:Axiom Space
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US-based private space company Axiom Space is nearing the launch of its third crewed mission next week. The launch is scheduled for 3:41 am IST on January 18 on SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft from NASA's Kennedy Space Center.

The spacecraft will carry a crew of four astronauts -Michael López-Alegría, Walter Villadei, Marcus Wandt - and the first from Türkiye - Alper Gezeravci. Interestingly, these astronauts will be accompanied by 'GiGi' a teddy bear which will fly as a zero-g indicator. 

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'GiGi' The Bear. Image: Axiom Space

It has become a tradition for crewed missions to have a toy or a memento with huge cultural significance or some symbolic meaning to be used as a zero-g indicator to indicate that the spacecraft has entered space or zero-gravity once it starts floating around.

‘GiGi’ The Bear. Image: Axiom Space

GiGi, which first flew to space during Axiom Mission 2 (Ax-2) in May 2023, has been chosen again to inspire the youth and draw them toward science, technology, engineering, the arts, and mathematics (STEAM).

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"We want our fifth crew member, GiGi, to inspire youth in space exploration and encourage them to grow their knowledge about STEAM," Sandra Nelson, Axiom Space's Vice President of Marketing said in an official statement.

About the Axiom Mission 3 (Ax-3)

The Ax-3, according to Axiom Space, will be the first all-European commercial astronaut mission to the International Space Station (ISS).

Mission commander Michael López-Alegría of the US and Spain, mission pilot Walter Villadei and Mission Specialists Alper Gezeravcı of Türkiye and Marcus Wandt of Sweden will spend 14 days aboard the ISS. The crew will also conduct 30 science experiments during their stay.

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Walter Villadei, Alper Gezeravcı, Marcus Wandt, Michael López-Alegría (left to right). Image: Axiom Space

"Data collected on ground before and after the mission as well as in flight will impact understanding of human physiology on Earth and on orbit, as well as advance scientific understanding, harness opportunities for industrial advancements, and develop technologies for humanity’s progress," Axiom said in an official statement.

SpaceX rolls out Dragon spacecraft for Ax-3

Earlier on January 12, SpaceX introduced the furnished Dragon spacecraft which has arrived at launch pad 39A of the Kennedy Space Center.

The Dragon spacecraft for Ax-3. Image: SpaceX
The Dragon spacecraft for Ax-3. Image: SpaceX

SpaceX is gearing up for its 12th astronaut mission since Demo-2 - its first crewed flight to the ISS in May 2020. The company has launched 8 crewed missions for NASA to the ISS along two previous Axiom missions. Another private mission was the Inspiration4 which was the world's first all-civilian flight to the low-Earth orbit in September 2021. 

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Published January 13th, 2024 at 17:46 IST

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