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Last Thursdays January 18th, the Axiom mission 3 left Cape Canaveral, Florida, at 9.49 pm Irish time to arrive at the International Space Station (ISS). After a 36-hour journey, the crew hooked up to the ISS on Saturday January 20th . Accompanying the astronauts – including Italian Air Force colonel Walter Villadei – is the Sovereign Military Order of Malta’s flag with its eight-pointed white cross.
“After being deployed over nine centuries on five continents, our flag has now crossed the earth’s borders. We are very proud to know that the flag that flies over our hospitals, health centres and clinics as well as where our volunteers and employees operate – also in war zones – is now in orbit, part of a mission of great scientific value aimed at achieving a better world for all” said the Receiver of the Sovereign Order of Malta, Fabrizio Colonna, commenting on the mission launch.
The flag with the octagonal cross, also known as the “flag of the Works”, is the banner under which for almost a thousand years some 150 thousand people, members, volunteers and employees of the Order of Malta, have been operating in 120 countries worldwide to alleviate the suffering of others and to spread the Supreme Pontiff’s message of peace and hope.
To mark the initiative, the Order of Malta’s Magistral Post Office have dedicated a special postmark with an image of the International Space Station orbiting the Earth, flanked by the Order of Malta’s flag. The words “Sovrano Militare Ordine di Malta” and “Poste Magistrali” complete the postmark with the legend “Lancio Axiom Mission 3” and the date “19.I.2024”.
At the end of the space mission – which will have a scheduled duration of 14 days – the flag will be returned to the Order of Malta during part of a special ceremony at the Magistral Palace, seat of the Order of Malta’s government in Rome.