Credit: Axiom Space

Axiom Mission 3 (Ax-3) is the first all-European commercial astronaut mission to the International Space Station. Axiom Mission 3 redefines the pathway to low-Earth orbit for nations around the globe. This mission marks a new era of opportunity for countries to join the international space community and access low-Earth orbit to advance exploration and research in microgravity. The Ax-3 mission will be the first human space mission with a Turkish astronaut and also the first commercial astronaut mission to include a European Space Agency (ESA) sponsored national astronaut.

Michael López-Alegría

Michael López-Alegría was born in Madrid, Spain and immigrated to the U.S. as a young boy with his family. He has over 40 years of aviation and space experience with the U.S. Navy and NASA in a variety of roles, including Naval Aviator, engineering test pilot, NASA astronaut, and commander of the International Space Station (ISS). López-Alegría is currently the chief astronaut for Axiom Space and commanded the crew of Axiom Mission 1 (Ax-1), the first fully private mission to the ISS in human history. He is a five-time astronaut, having flown on Ax-1, space shuttle missions STS-73, STS-92, and STS- 113, and Soyuz TMA-9 to and from the ISS, where he served as commander of Expedition 14. He holds NASA records for the most extravehicular activities (EVA) or “space walks” (10) and cumulative EVA time (67 hours, 40 minutes). He was elected to the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame as a 2020 inductee.

López-Alegría is the former president of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, where he was a spokesman, thought leader and advocate with the U.S. Congress and pertinent executive agencies for favorable public policy on behalf of the commercial spaceflight industry. He has served on several advisory boards and committees of public and private organizations, including the Human Exploration and Operations Committee of the NASA Advisory Council and the Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee to the FAA. López-Alegría is the chairman of ASTM International Committee on Commercial Spaceflight and the former president of the Association of Space Explorers USA, a professional and educational organization of current and former astronauts. López-Alegría is honored to lead his second commercial mission with Axiom Space as commander of Ax-3.

Walter Villadei

Born April 1974 in Rome, Italy, Walter Villadei is a colonel in the Italian Air Force (ItAF) and is currently the head of ItAF’s representative office in the U.S., overseeing commercial spaceflight initiatives. He has extensive experience in Italian space programs, including multiple assignments as a member of the scientific committee of the Italian Space Agency and national representative for the European Commission for the Space Surveillance and Tracking Program. Villadei has served as a flight engineer on the C-130J and G-222, and flew on the MB339 and Eurofighter Typhoon (EFA). The EFA-2000 is a European multinational twin-engine, canard delta wing, multirole fighter jet designed for multiple combat roles, including air-to-air combat, air support, aerial bombing, reconnaissance, electronic warfare, and suppression of air defenses. The MB-339 is a military jet trainer and light attack aircraft. Villadei has extensive experience in land, sea, and winter survival training and has participated in multiple military operational activities abroad, including Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan), UNMEE (UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea), and Antica Babilonia (Iraq). He also participated in multiple flight training exercises, such as “Red Flag,” a multinational opportunity for allied air forces to practice and refine piloting skills for real combat situations. In 2011, Villadei received cosmonaut training in Star City, Russia as a Soyuz flight engineer and in advanced Orlan and International Space Station (ISS) Russian segment systems.

In 2014 and 2018, he completed pre-assignment and multiple analog training, which included centrifuge, hypoxia chamber, and survival training. In 2021, Villadei was selected to fly on Virgin Galactic’s rocket-powered flight, Unity 23, the first commercial, human-tended research mission for the company. The mission Vitute-1 was carried out in June 2023, and the crew conducted 12 experiments aboard Unity 23, to include materials, technology, and human physiology research. Villadei served as mission lead and tended to the rack-mounted payloads during the weightless portion of the flight while wearing a smart suit to measure his physiological responses. Villadei has a Master's Degree in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Naples and a specialization in astronautical engineering from the University of Rome. When not working, Villadei enjoys spending time at home in Rome with his wife and three daughters. His personal hobbies include swimming and running. In addition, he enjoys scuba diving/advanced PADI and has an Ultralight private license. He is fluent in reading, writing, and speaking in English and his native Italian, along with extensive experience speaking Russian. With a love for space, stars, aviation, and science combined with Russian cosmonaut and Italian Air Force training, Villadei is honored to have been chosen as the pilot for Axiom Space’s third commercial astronaut mission to the ISS, Axiom Mission 3 (Ax-3).

Alper Gezeravcı

Born December 1979 in Silifke, Türkiye, Gezeravcı attended the Air Force Academy in Istanbul, Türkiye, where he completed a Bachelor of Science in Electronics Engineering. In addition, he completed a master's degree from the Air Force Institute of Technology at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. As a fighter pilot with the Turkish Air Force, Gezeravcı has 15 years of flying experience on multiple aircrafts including the T-41, SF-260, T-37, T-38, F-5, KC-135 and F-16 . In addition, he served as a captain with the Turkish Airlines for seven years. Gezeravcı has also served as a flight leader, flight safety officer, and commercial airlines captain. Gezeravcı was most recently assigned to the 10th Base Command Unit in Adana, Türkiye, as the Standardization Squadron Academic Wing Commander. He was responsible for standardization and evaluation of the squadron, organizing all training documents according to Air Force standards, giving exams to all of the F-16 and KC-135R pilots before check rides, and inspecting squadron documentation standards. As a sports enthusiast, Gezeravcı enjoys scuba diving, sailing, camping, rafting, and has extensive experience in mountain hiking and horseback riding. Through his military training, he has participated in multiple survival training courses and military deployments. Gezeravcı is honored and excited for the opportunity to be a part of the historic Axiom Mission 3 (Ax-3) as the first Turkish astronaut to go to space. Gezeravcı will serve as a mission specialist for Ax-3.

Marcus Wandt

Born 1980 in Sweden, Marcus Wandt has over 20 years of aviation experience with the Swedish Air Force as a fighter pilot, squadron commander, wing commander, and chief test pilot. Previously a member of the European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut reserve, Wandt is now an ESA project astronaut for the duration of his mission duties. Between 2003 and 2014, Wandt was active as a fighter pilot with the Swedish Air Force, including international exercises, operational testing, and operational deployment. In 2006, Wandt founded and became the CEO of Intuitech AB focusing on tactical training of fighter pilots. He later became an experimental test pilot at SAAB Aeronautics in Linköping, Sweden, and worked his way up to chief test pilot and head of flight operations. In November 2022, Wandt was selected as a member of the ESA astronaut reserve. He graduated from the Sundsta-Älvkullen High School in 1999. The same year, he became a patrol leader and airborne ranger with the Swedish Army Airborne Ranger School. In 2000, he began his studies at Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, Sweden, focusing on electronics and artificial intelligence, communication technology, and basic space engineering. He received his master's degree in electrical engineering in 2007.

Wandt joined the Karlberg Military Academy in Stockholm, Sweden, in 2003, where he received leadership training and graduated as an officer from the military officer program in 2005. In 2004, Wandt joined the Swedish Air Force Flying Training School to attend basic flying training, which he completed in 2005, followed by basic fighter training in 2006. Wandt was trained to 4-ship lead with the Swedish Air Force Air Operations Commander School and became captain at the Halmstad Military Academy. Wandt is currently a lieutenant colonel in the Swedish Air Force. From 2013 to 2014, Wandt attended the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School at the Naval Air Station Patuxent River, USA, graduating as number one of his class as an experimental test pilot. Wandt also became a squadron commander and wing commander flying with the Swedish Air Force Operations Commander School. Throughout his academic and professional career, Wandt received various honors and awards for his outstanding performance as a student and pilot. He speaks Swedish and English. Wandt will be the second ESA astronaut of Swedish nationality to ever go to the International Space Station during Axiom Mission 3 (Ax-3). He will serve as a mission specialist during Ax-3.

Source: Axiom Space

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Kris Christiaens

This article was published by FutureSpaceFlight founder and chief editor Kris Christiaens. Kris Christiaens has been passionate and fascinated by spaceflight and space exploration all his life and has written hundreds of articles on space projects, the commercial space industry and space missions over the past 20 years for magazines, books and websites. In late 2021, he founded the website FutureSpaceFlight with the goal of promoting new space companies and commercial space projects and compiling news of these start-ups and companies on one website.