Axiom Space on Tuesday revealed the commander and pilot of its second commercial mission proposed to fly to the International Space Station and announced the proposed crew’s intended research while on orbit. Axiom will compete to fly the Ax-2 mission when NASA announces the next private astronaut mission opportunity. If awarded, Ax-2 will further the Houston-based space infrastructure leader’s expansion of the commercial human spaceflight market and cement the research opportunities it can make possible for private industry in low-Earth orbit.
Whitson, one of the world’s most revered astronauts who during a 22-year career at NASA became the ISS’ first female commander, the first ISS Science Officer, and set and still holds the American record for time spent in space, will return to flight as a private citizen and commander of Ax-2. Alongside her as the planned mission pilot will be John Shoffner – a pilot, champion GT racer, and active supporter of life science research from Knoxville, Tenn.
Whitson and Shoffner will train together in Axiom’s standard astronaut program to prepare them to lead the flight. In addition to their flight training, they will learn how to translate terrestrial single-cell genomic methods to an orbital science process in collaboration with Pleasanton, Calif.-based 10x Genomics, a global leader in developing products to master biology for advancing human health whose offerings are used by all of the top 100 global research institutions.