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SpaceX Dragon Capsule Docks at Space Station with Private Axiom-2 Crew Aboard

Axiom Space

Cape Canaveral - Tuesday May 23, 2023: The International Space Station welcomed the Axiom-2 crew Monday following their arrival at the orbiting lab less than 16 hours after taking off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The SpaceX’s Dragon capsule autonomously docked with the International Space Station 9:12 a.m. ET Monday. The four member crew will spend just over a week inside the ISS, before returning to Earth in their capsule.

During their time on the orbiting laboratory, the crew will conduct over 20 science and technology experiments in areas such as human physiology, physical sciences, and STEAM to help expand knowledge to benefit life on Earth in areas such as healthcare, materials, technology development, and enable industrial advances.

The 270-mile-high docking puts the space station population at 11, which now includes astronauts from the U.S., Russia, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

UAE astronaut Sultan al-Neyadi greeted the two Saudi members of the ACX-2 crew with dates, a traditional Arab welcome.

“This shows how space brings everyone together,” said Saudi Arabia's first female astronaut, Rayyanah Barnawi, a stem cell researcher. Fellow Saudi AX-2 crew member Ali al-Qarni said “This mission is not just for me and Rayyanah. This mission is also for the people with ambition and dreams.”

The Saudi government is picking up the multimillion-dollar tab for both of them. Only one other Saudi has flown before in space, a prince who rode on NASA's shuttle Discovery in 1985.

AX-2 Mission Commander, retired NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson, now works for Axiom Space, the Houston company that organized the 10-day trip, its second to the space station. John Shoffner, a Knoxville, Tennessee, businessman who started a sports car racing team, paid his own way aboard the AX-2 mission as a mission specialist.

The company cited ticket prices of $55 million each for last year's private trip by three businessmen, but won't say how much the latest seats cost.