Cape Canaveral: Four space tourists safely ended their trailblazing journey into orbit with a splashdown in the Atlantic off the Florida coast on Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021.
His SpaceX capsule parachuted into the ocean just before sunset, from where his chartered flight had begun three days earlier.
The all-amateur crew was the first to circumnavigate the world without a professional astronaut.
The billionaire who paid undisclosed millions for the trip and three of his guests wanted to show that ordinary people could explode into orbit themselves, and SpaceX founder Elon Musk cast them as the company’s first rocket-riding tourists.
“Your mission has shown the world that space is meant for all of us,” SpaceX Mission Control said over the radio.
“It was the heck of a ride for us…just getting started,” replied trip sponsor Jared Isaacman, referring to the growing number of private flights on the horizon.
SpaceX’s fully automated Dragon capsule reached an unusually high altitude of 363 miles (585 kilometers) after Wednesday night’s liftoff. Passing 100 miles (160 kilometers) to the International Space Station, passengers enjoyed views of Earth through a large bubble-shaped window added to the top of the capsule.
The four streaked back through the atmosphere on Saturday evening, the first astronauts to end their flight across the Atlantic since Apollo 9 in 1969. SpaceX’s two previous crew splashdowns — carrying astronauts for NASA — were in the Gulf of Mexico.
Within minutes, a pair of SpaceX boats pulled up with the bobbing capsule. When the hatch of the capsule on the recovery ship was opened, health care worker Hayley Arsinaux came out first, flashing a big smile and thumbs up.
Everyone looked good and happy.
His family waited near the scene of Wednesday night’s launch from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.
This time, NASA was little more than an enthusiastic spectator, its only tie being the Kennedy launchpad once used for Apollo moonshots and shuttle crews, but now leased by SpaceX.
Isaacman, 38, an entrepreneur and accomplished pilot, aimed to raise $200 million for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Donating $100 million to himself, he held a lottery for one of the four seats. Late Saturday, Musk tweeted that he was donating $50 million, topping him.
For the last seat, Isaacman held a contest for customers of his Allentown, Pennsylvania payment-processing business, Shift4 Payments.
Joining them on the flight were a St. Jude physician assistant, 29, who had been treated at a Memphis, Tennessee hospital nearly two decades ago for bone cancer, and competition winner Chris Sambrowski, 42, of Everett, Washington. a data engineer in the U.S., and Sean Proctor, 51, a community college teacher, scientist, and artist from Tempe, Arizona.
“Best ride of my life!” Proctor tweeted hours after the splashdown.
Stranger by March, the four underwent six months of training and preparedness for potential emergencies during the flight – but there was no need to step in, officials said after their return. During a trip named Inspiration 4, he had time to chat with St. Jude’s patients, conduct medical tests himself, ring the closing bell for the New York Stock Exchange, and do some drawing and playing the guitar.
Arsinox, the youngest American in space and the first with a prosthesis, assured his patients, “I was a little girl going through cancer treatment like so many of you, and if I can So you can do it.”
He also took calls from Tom Cruise, who was interested in his SpaceX flight for filming, and Bono of the rock band U2.
Not even their space menu was typical: cold pizzas and sandwiches, but also pasta Bolognese and Mediterranean lamb.
Before starting the descent, Sambroski was so quiet that he was watching the 1987 Mel Brooks film “Spaceballs” on his tablet in the capsule.
“What a wonderful adventure!” He tweeted later.
The Association of Space Explorers congratulated its four new members.
Officials said that apart from the problem of the toilet fan and bad temperature sensor in the engine, the flight went very well. Some in four passengers experienced motion sickness upon reaching orbit – as do some astronauts.
“It was a very clean mission from start to finish,” said SpaceX senior director Benji Reid.
Reid expects six private flights a year for SpaceX, sandwiched between astronaut launches for NASA. Four SpaceX flights are already booked to take paying customers to the space station with former NASA astronauts. The first is targeted for early next year with three businesses paying $55 million. Russia also plans to take on an actor and film director for filming next month and a Japanese tycoon in December.
Customers interested in accelerated space travel are turning to Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic and Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin. The two carried their rockets to the edge of space in July to boost ticket sales; Their flights lasted 10 to 15 minutes.
The 60-year scorecard now has 591 people who have reached space or its fringes – and are expected to skyrocket as space tourism warms.