A quartet of newly minted civilian astronauts on the SpaceX Inspiration 4 mission slid safely down into the Atlantic off the coast of Florida on Saturday, completing a three-day flight to space. The first all-civilian crew was launched into Earth orbit.
SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule, called Resilience, parachuted into calm seas around 7 p.m. EDT, shortly before sunset, following an automated re-entry descent, SpaceX said via a live webcast on its YouTube channel. shown during
Within an hour four smiling crew members were seen emerging one by one from the side hatch of the capsule, which, scorched outward, was hoisted from the sea to the deck of the SpaceX recovery vessel.
Each of the four stood for a few moments on the deck in front of the capsule to give thumb-ups to the cameras. Each was taken to a medical station on the ship for checkups at sea.
SpaceX said later, amateur astronauts were to be flown by helicopter back to Cape Canaveral to reunite with loved ones.
The return from orbit followed a dip through Earth’s atmosphere creating frictional heat that raised the temperature outside the capsule to 3,500 °F (1,927 °C). Astronauts’ flight suits, equipped with special ventilation systems, were designed to keep them cool when the cabin became hot.
Applause was heard from the SpaceX Flight Control Center in suburban Los Angeles as the first parachute was deployed, slowing the capsule’s descent to about 15 mph (24.14 kph) before splashdown, and again the craft hit the water. killed it.
The astronauts cheered again as they stepped onto the deck of the recovery ship.
The first was a childhood bone, Haley Arsinaux, 29, a physician assistant at the St. Jude Children’s Research Center in Tennessee. cancer She herself survived, becoming the youngest person ever to reach Earth orbit on the Inspiration 4 mission.
In rapid succession by geoscientist and former NASA astronaut candidate Sean Proctor, 51, aerospace data engineer and Air Force veteran Chris Sambrowski, 42, and finally by crew billionaire donor and “mission commander” Jared Isaacman, 38. They were followed.
SpaceX, the private rocketry company founded by Tesla Inc. electric automaker CEO Elon Musk, supplied the spacecraft, launched it, flew it from the company’s suburban Los Angeles headquarters, and handled recovery operations.
The Inspiration 4 team blasted off atop one of SpaceX’s two-stage reusable Falcon 9 rockets from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral on Wednesday.
Within three hours the crew capsule had reached a cruising orbital altitude of more than 363 miles (585 km)—higher than the International Space Station or the Hubble Space Telescope, and more since NASA’s Apollo Moon program ended in 1972. The farthest human has flown from Earth. .
It also marked the first flight of Musk’s new space tourism business and took a leap ahead of competitors, as well as offering rides on rocket ships to well-heeled customers looking to experience the excitement of spaceflight and become amateur astronauts. Willing to pay a small fortune to earn wings.
Isaacman, chief executive officer of e-commerce firm Shift4 Payments Inc., radioed the capsule moments after the splashdown, “It was a heck of a ride for us.” “We’re just getting started.”
He had paid fellow billionaire Musk an undisclosed but reportedly hefty sum for all four seats aboard Crew Dragon – which Time magazine put at around $200 million.
Isaacman conceived the flight primarily to raise awareness and charity for St. Jude, one of his favorite causes, where Archinox now operates.
The Inspiration4 crew had no role in flying the spacecraft, which was operated by ground-based flight teams and onboard guidance systems, even though both Isaacman and Proctor are licensed pilots.
The successful launch and safe return of the mission should give a boost to the budding astro-tourism sector.
SpaceX already ranks as the most well-established player in a growing constellation of commercial rocket enterprises, having launched numerous cargo payloads and astronauts to the space station for NASA.
Two rival operators, Virgin Galactic Holdings Inc. and Blue Origin, have inaugurated their space tourism services in recent months with their respective founding executives, billionaire Richard Branson and Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos, each going along for the ride. .
Those suborbital flights, which lasted just a few minutes, were shorter hops than Inspiration 4’s three days in orbit.