‘Dreaming of this moment’: Axiom launches second private astronaut mission to the ISS

Another team of astronauts is on its way to the International Space Station (ISS).

Axiom-2 lifted off Sunday at 5:37 p.m., transporting humans and science to space. It’s the second all-private mission to take off from Kennedy Space Center.

The international team is made up of United States and Saudi astronauts who embarked on a 16-hour journey to the ISS before spending the next 10 days doing research and paving the way for a new chapter in low-earth orbit.

"All of this crew, most of them have spent their whole life dreaming of this moment," said Matt Ondler, the Chief Technology Officer for Axiom Space.

The moment they dreamed of was years in the making, coming to life in a countdown they won’t forget. The four-person crew is making history in more ways than one.

Rayyanah Barnawi is the first Saudi woman astronaut, serving as a mission specialist.

Peggy Whitson is hailed as America’s most experienced astronaut. She’s Axiom 2’s commander, making her the first woman to lead a private mission.

John Shoffner is also on board, serving as the pilot for the mission. He’s also the first person from Alaska to fly to space. 

Ali Alqarni is another mission specialist and also one of the first Saudi astronauts to visit the ISS.

"We’re on the first part of the journey. Next up, we need to get them safely to the station and then have a great time on there doing the work they need to do and the research," said Benji Reed, the Sr. Director for Human Spaceflight Programs at SpaceX.

The team is taking almost 100 hours of research up to space, conducting 20 experiments relating to numerous topics, including the weather and medical studies and treatments surrounding cancer.

"We’re solving some of the really hard problems that are faced by people on Earth, and we’re using the microgravity environment to find new ways to do that," Ondler said.

SpaceX says this is its 10th human space flight launch and the first time they brought their booster back to land after a crewed mission.

Earlier in the day, SpaceX was monitoring a valve leak in the booster.

"We continued to monitor that leak throughout the count, and we were able to proceed," Reed said. "Other than that, everything went very well. We’re grateful that the weather worked out."

The technology and weather held out, so it was a picture-perfect launch on the Space Coast with a busy mission ahead.

Axiom is laser focused on creating its own commercial space station in low-earth orbit. They’re set to start that process in 2025 and are using missions like this to learn and prepare for their next goals.