SpaceX Dragon Capsule Freedom carrying the Axiom Mission 3 (Ax-3) crew, including Türkiye's first astronaut Alper Gezeravci, has splashed down successfully off the coast of Florida following their 18-day stay aboard the International Space Station (ISS).
The capsule undocked from the ISS on Wednesday and began its journey back to Earth. The return process took around 47 hours and concluded on Friday when the capsule descended onto the ocean. The crew was swiftly recovered by standby teams.
Ax-3’s all-European crew includes Axiom Space chief astronaut and former ISS commander Michael Lopez-Alegria, representing Spain and the US as the Ax-3 mission commander. In 2022, he led Axiom Mission 1 (Ax-1), the first private mission to the ISS.
The mission pilot is Colonel Walter Villadei from the Italian Air Force. Gezeravci, an F-16 fighter pilot, is taking part in Ax-3 as a mission specialist alongside Swedish astronaut Marcus Wandt from the European Space Agency.
The Ax-3 crew had been launched from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida on January 19 on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. Its crew docked at the International Space Station the next day on January 20.
During their over-two-week stay on the station, Turkish Air Force pilot Colonel Alper Gezeravci and his three crewmates from Spain, Italy, and Sweden carried out over 30 scientific experiments, about half of them by Gezeravci himself.
The crew's scheduled return was postponed several times due to bad weather.