KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. – Axiom-2 is set to light up the sky over the Space Coast Sunday afternoon as a second group of private astronauts kick off a science mission to the International Space Station, according to News 6 partner Florida Today.
Liftoff of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying Axiom-2′s four astronauts is set for 5:37 p.m. EDT Sunday, May 21, from Kennedy Space Center’s pad 39A.
But who are the private Axiom astronauts who will be onboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule? Here’s what we know:
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Mission commander Peggy Whitson is no stranger to space travel.
- Whitson holds the record among American astronauts and among women for spending the most time in space, over 665 days (and counting)
- First female commander of the International Space Station and the only woman to serve as ISS commander twice
- On Ax-2, Whitson will become the first woman to command a private space mission
- First woman and first non-military chief of NASA’s Astronaut Office
- First ISS science officer
- Holds the records for the most spacewalks by a woman (10)
- TIME 100 Most Influential People in the World (2018)
STEM advocate, business pioneer, and lifelong space enthusiast John Shoffner will serve as pilot for the Ax-2 mission.
- Cycled across the U.S. in 18 days without support
- Accumulated 8,500 flight hours
- Completed 3,000 sky dives and base jumps
- Placed second in 2019 Nürburgring Endurance Series Carrera Cup Class Championship
- Formed a young astronauts club as a child
Representing the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Ali AlQarni (pronounced Ali Al-car-knee) will serve as a mission specialist on the Ax-2 mission.
- 12 years of flying experience with 2,387 flight hours
- A fighter pilot with the Royal Saudi Air Force, he’s primarily piloted an F-15SA
- Inaugural member of the Saudi National Astronaut Program
- Only the second Saudi male astronaut and one of the first Saudi astronauts to visit the ISS
- Bachelor’s degree in aerospace science from King Faisal Air Academy in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
- Athletic enthusiast
- Free time: Making coffee, grilling steaks and restoring antique cars
Also representing the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Rayyanah Barnawi (pronounced Ray-AH-nah Bar-now-wee) will serve as a mission specialist on the Ax-2 mission.
- Biomedical researcher with almost a decade of experience in cancer stem-cell research
- Making history as the first Saudi female astronaut to go to space and one of the first Saudi astronauts to visit the ISS
- Master of biomedical sciences from Alfaisal University in Saudi Arabia
- Bachelor of biomedical sciences from Otago University in New Zealand
- More than nine years as a research lab technician for the Stem Cell and Tissue Re-engineering Program at King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Center located in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
- Outdoor and sports enthusiast participating in adventures around the world
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