Sept. 12 (UPI) -- NASA has approved a four-person crew for the third Axiom mission, which is intended to launch no sooner than January 2024.
"Axiom Space's chief astronaut and former NASA astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria will command the private mission. Italian Air Force Col. Walter Villadei will serve as pilot. The two mission specialists are Alper Gezeravci of Turkey and ESA (European Space Agency) project astronaut Marcus Wandt of Sweden," NASA said in a press release Tuesday.
The crew will travel to the International Space Station in a Crew Dragon spacecraft that will be launched from a Falcon 9 rocket. Once they have docked, the crew will spend 14 days onboard the ISS.
NASA hopes commercial space flight will expand the horizons of space travel.
"Private astronaut missions to the space station help pave the way toward commercial space stations as part of NASA's efforts to develop a thriving low-Earth orbit ecosystems and marketplace and enable more nations, more people, and more opportunities in space than ever before," NASA said.
"This crew is shifting the paradigm of how governments and space agencies access and reap the benefits of microgravity," said Lopez-Alegria, "I look forward to working with this team and with all those who will support our mission on the ground, on orbit, and around the world."
NASA also hopes that private space missions will help lower costs to free up funding for the upcoming Artemis moon mission.
"The agency's goal is to enable a strong commercial marketplace in low-Earth orbit where NASA is one of many customers for private industry. This strategy will provide services the government needs at a lower cost, enabling the agency to focus on its Artemis missions to the moon in preparation for Mars," NASA said.