Later this month, we’ll see the launch of Axiom Mission 3 (Ax-3), a private space mission to the International Space Station (ISS). Ax-3 is the first all-European commercial astronaut mission (NASA calls it a Private Astronaut Mission, or PAM) to the ISS, and the launch is currently scheduled for 17:11 EST (22:00 GMT) on 17 January.

Swedish ESA astronaut Marcus Wandt will be onboard for his Muninn mission, and Alper Gezeravcı will become the first Turkish astronaut to go to space. He’ll be taking along a Turkish research portfolio that includes several astrobotany experiments.

Extreme Salt Stress and CRISPR Gene Editing Efficiency in Plants Under Microgravity (Extremophyte CRISPR (Ax-3)) has two research aims. The first experiment, CRISPR GEM, will examine how microgravity affects the CRISPR gene editing method using three different target plant genes.

The second experiment, Extremophyte, will test the salt stress tolerance of two species of plants (Arabidopsis thaliana and Schrenkiella parvula). Schrenkiella parvula, an extreme halophyte (salt-tolerant) plant originating from the Salt Lake area of Turkey, is a close relative of the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana. The plant is also tolerant to elements such as lithium and boron and could be used in future experiments to investigate tolerance to heavy metals and other environmental stresses in space.