4 Astronauts Who Will Fly On SpaceX’s Ax-2 Mission For Axiom Space


The crew, which a retired NASA astronaut will lead, will also feature the first Saudi Arabian woman to travel to space.

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Including a former NASA astronaut, Houston, Texas-based commercial space company Axiom Space is sending four more people to the International Space Station.

SpaceX will launch its astronaut missions for NASA from Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Centre for Axiom Space’s second crewed space mission, or Ax-2. The four astronauts will launch in a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft atop a Falcon 9 rocket to the International Space Station (ISS). There will be a launch on Sunday, May 21, at 5:37 p.m. EDT (2137 GMT), which you can watch live on Space.com thanks to NASA and SpaceX.

Ax-1, Axiom’s first crewed space mission, was launched on April 8, 2022, and it spent more than 15 days in orbit. The four crew members of Ax-2 will stay on board the orbital laboratory for only eight days.

Meet the 4 individuals who will make up the Axiom Space Ax-2 mission crew here.


More than any other American astronaut or woman astronaut, Peggy Whitson has spent 665 days in space as the commander of Ax-2. She completed three missions to the International Space Station (Expeditions 5, 16, 50/51/52), breaking two records for female astronauts along the way by leading the orbiting complex twice and leading 10 spacewalks.

According to her biography(opens in new tab), Whitson also held several senior positions at NASA, including deputy division chief for both medical science and deputy chair of NASA’s astronaut selection board. She was also the head of NASA’s operations branch. She also served as the working group’s co-chair for American and Russian mission science.

Whitson has degrees in biology, chemistry, and biochemistry in addition to a Ph.D. Inspired by the Apollo 11 moon landing, Whitson became an astronaut in 1969. She was raised on a farm in Iowa. She will achieve yet another first by leading Ax-2 as the first female commander of a private space mission.


More than 8,500 hours of flight time in various commercial aircraft and helicopters have been logged by John Shoffner, an aviator and Ax-2 pilot.

The Dura-Line Corporation, founded by Shoffner, installed fiber optic cable in the 1980s during the early development of internet networks. He left in 1997 to pursue other interests, and in 2012 he and his wife, Janine, a fellow skydiver, founded J2-Racing, an endurance motorsports racing team. 

According to his official biography(opens in new tab), he enjoys “cycling, white water kayaking, waterskiing, hang gliding, skydiving, base jumping, and motorsports”. At the age of 8, he developed an interest in space and founded a club for young astronauts in Middlesboro, Kentucky, during the Gemini and Apollo missions. He will use ham radio to communicate with other amateur radio enthusiasts, a hobby he started when he was a teenager.


Saudi Arabian astronaut Ali Alqarni is an Ax-2 mission specialist. According to his biography(opens in new tab), he is a fighter pilot with almost 2,400 flight hours in a variety of aircraft, including the Cessna 172, T-6, T-38, F-15S, and the F-15SA of the Royal Saudi Air Force. 

While undergoing training with the U.S. Air Force, Alquarni first developed an interest in space during a trip to the NASA Johnson Space Centre. His will be the first Saudi Arabian mission to the ISS and the country’s second overall mission. He has a bachelor’s degree in aerospace science and loves spending time with his family, bungee jumping, and hiking in the mountains.


As an Ax-2 mission specialist, Rayyanah Barnawi is the first Saudi Arabian woman in space. 

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According to her biography(opens in new tab), Barnawi has several degrees in biomedical sciences. At King Faisal Specialist Hospital in Riyadh, she has been employed for almost ten years as a research lab technician in stem cells and tissue re-engineering. Her work on Ax-2 will concentrate on breast cancer and stem cell research. Scuba diving, hang gliding, ledge swinging, river rafting, hiking, and wingsuit flying training are some of her hobbies.




Salma Hussain is an MBBS doctor who loves to write on health-related topics. Apart from this, writing on sports and entertainment topics is her hobby. She is playing the role of an important writer in Arab Post.

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