The 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 of the first all-civilian crew launched into Earth orbit.
SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule, called Resilience, parachuted into the ocean around 7 p.m. EDT, shortly before sunset, following an automated re-entry descent, SpaceX said on its YouTube channel, via a live webcast. said during
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 are designed to keep them cool when the cabin gets 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.
Recovery ships were shown approaching the water-proof Crew Dragon as it swung upright, nose up in the water.
SpaceX, the private rocketry company founded by Tesla Inc. electric automaker CEO Elon Musk, said it should take about an hour to get the crew out of the capsule. A camera taken from inside the cabin showed them calmly in their seats.
SpaceX supplied the spacecraft, launched it from Florida and flew it from the company’s suburban Los Angeles headquarters.
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 maiden 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.
The Inspiration4 team was led by Jared Isaacman, chief executive officer of e-commerce firm Shift4 Payments Inc., who assumed the role of mission “commander”.
“It was one heck of a ride for us,” he radioed from the capsule moments after splashdown. “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 was joined by three less endowed crewmates selected by him—geologist and former NASA astronaut candidate Sean Proctor, 51, physician’s assistant and childhood bone cancer survivor, Hayley Arsinaux, 29, and Aerospace. Data engineer and Air Force veteran Chris Sambrowski, 42.
Isaacman conceived the flight primarily to raise awareness and donations to one of his favorite causes, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, a major pediatric cancer center in Memphis, Tennessee, where Arsinox was a patient and now works. Is.
The Inspiration4 crew had no role in flying the spacecraft, which was operated by ground-based flight teams and onboard guidance systems, even though Isaacman and Proctor are both licensed pilots.
SpaceX is already ranked 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 in recent months inaugurated their own astro-tourism services with their respective founding executives, billionaire Richard Branson and Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos, each along for a ride. were going.
Those suborbital flights, which lasted just a few minutes, were shorter hops than Inspiration 4’s three days in orbit.
(Writing and additional reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by Daniel Wallis and David Gregorio)