The Sovereign Knights of Malta's Italian Branch (Association of Italian Knights of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta (ACISMOM)) has long had a partnership with the Italian Armed Forces for humanitarian purposes such as after the Surrender Treaty when Italy gave some of their Air Force planes to the Knights of Malta (SMOM) to conduct humanitarian missions.
Still to this day, the ACISMOM operates the Military Corps via the military auxiliary service of Italy for natural disasters and conflict related civil services, using military cars and other transportation with a set of nurses, thus making the Order's presence in Italy the last remnant of SMOM as a military force. In addition, the ACISMOM like other national associations have agreements with Italy to operate ambulances.
But, the Order's partnership with Italy that has gone from sea to land to sky will now reach a new height.
On Thursday at the Italian Embassy in Washington, D.C., USA, SMOM's Receiver of the Common Treasure Fabrizio Colonna gave the SMOM works flag to Italian Air Force Colonel Walter Villadei. Colonel Walter Villadei will be carrying the flag on the Axiom Mission 3 to the International Space Station in January of 2024.
The Axiom Mission 3 will be a private space flight operated by American based Axiom Space and will also be notable for including the first Turkish astronaut, Alper Gezeravci. It will be using American based SpaceX's partially reusable Crew Dragon spacecraft and is planned to launch out of one of NASA's Florida sites on 11 January 2024 and is expected to return someplace over the Atlantic Ocean.
The other two members of the spaceflight will be Spanish-born and American dual citizen, Michael López-Alegría, a long time NASA astronaut and the commander of the first all-private spaceflight with Axiom Mission 1, and Swedish astronaut Marcus Wandt.
Therefore, Axiom Mission 3 is being credited as the first all-European commercial astronaut mission to the International Space Station albeit it with a few asterisk marks. The backup crew features American astronaut Peggy Whitson and Turkish Space Agency member Tuva Cihangir Atasever.
With the cooperation of Spanish, Swedish, Italian, Turkish, and American expertise, mixed in with Canada, Russia, Japan, and the rest of the 22 members of the European Space Agency that make the International Space Station possible, we see the brilliance of mutual peace that SMOM calls for almost solely found in space. Thus, it is very fitting that the SMOM works flag will make its first ascent into space during a multinational first.