Axiom Sets Second Private Flight to International Space Station

Axiom Space Inc., which is preparing a private flight to the International Space Station in January, has tapped veteran astronaut Peggy Whitson to lead its second planned mission.

Whitson, who retired from NASA in 2018 after 22 years, will lead a crew of three others on the second trip in late 2022 or 2023. John Shoffner, an airplane pilot and race-car entrepreneur from Knoxville, Tennessee, will join her as pilot for the voyage, Axiom said in a statement Tuesday. Two other crew members will be named later for the trip, which is known as Ax-2.

Whitson and Shoffner will work with 10X Genomics Inc. to conduct biological research aboard the space station during the mission. The trip will last approximately 10 days, including travel time.

With 665 days in space, Whitson, 61, holds the U.S. record for time in orbit. She went on three missions to the space station, conducted 10 spacewalks and was the first woman to command the orbiting lab.

Whitson and Shoffner are also training to serve as backups for Axiom’s January trip to the space station. That mission will be led by retired NASA astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria, who is also a vice president at Axiom.

The Houston-based company says it wants to fly trips to the station every six to seven months, depending on scheduling by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and other traffic at the lab.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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