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Next private space station crew begins quarantine ahead of launch

Ax-2's Rayyanah Barnawi, Peggy Whitson, John Shoffner and Ali Alqarni enter a mandatory two-week quarantine ahead of their mission to the International Space Station
Axiom Space
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Ax-2's Rayyanah Barnawi, Peggy Whitson, John Shoffner and Ali Alqarni enter a mandatory two-week quarantine ahead of their mission to the International Space Station

The next private crew to head to the International Space Station has entered a two-week quarantine ahead of a launch from Kennedy Space Center later this month.

The crew of four will embark on a week-long mission to the International Space Station, chartered by private company Axiom Space. The Ax-2 mission is the second private trip to the station brokered by the Houston-based company.

But before the mission can launch to the station in SpaceX’s Crew Dragon, the crew will have to remain isolated near the launch site for at least two weeks, a measure to prevent the crew from bringing any harmful pathogens to the space station.

"We're under the management of the rules, rule books for quarantine for NASA, because we have to take care to protect the station crew," said mission pilot John Shoffner. "That's what quarantine is about — going to orbit and not carrying something out that would affect the on orbit crew and our ability also to to interact."

Shoffner is quarantining somewhere between Orlando and the Kennedy Space Center with the other members of his crew, including Axiom's commander and former NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson, and Saudia Arabian astronauts Ali Alqarni and Rayyanah Barnawi.

The crew has trained extensively for the mission, both with NASA and SpaceX. In these last days ahead of launch, the crew will make final preparations for the trip.

"A big part of this is starting to look at our actual on orbit events and our timelines, our activities, the science [and] reviewing procedures that we have to execute to perform the science [experiments]," said Shoffner.

The mission could launch on SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket from Kennedy Space Center as early as May 21.

Brendan Byrne is WMFE's Assistant News Director, managing the day-to-day operations of the WMFE newsroom, editing daily news stories, and managing WMFE's internship program.

Byrne also hosts WMFE's weekly radio show and podcast "Are We There Yet?" which explores human space exploration.
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