Cape Canaveral, Fla. Four space tourists safely ended their orbit voyage with a splashdown in the Atlantic off the Florida coast on Saturday.
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 more 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 returned 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. It was hoisted onto the recovery ship, where all four were to undergo medical examinations before they were helicoptered to Kennedy Space Center to reunite with their families.
This time, NASA was little more than an enthusiastic spectator, its only tie being the Kennedy launch pad once used for Apollo moonshots and shuttle crews, but now leased by SpaceX.
Isaacman, 38, an entrepreneur and accomplished pilot, aimed to raise US$200 million for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Donating $100 million to himself, he held a lottery for one of the four seats. They also held a contest for customers of their Allentown, Pennsylvania payment-processing business, Shift4 Payments.
Joining him on the flight were Hayley Arsinaux, 29, a St. Jude physician assistant who had been treated for bone cancer nearly two decades ago at a Memphis, Tennessee hospital, and contest winner Chris Sambrowski, 42, Everett, Was a data engineer in Washington. and Sean Proctor, 51, a community college teacher, scientist, and artist from Tempe, Arizona.
Stranger by March, he spent six months training and preparing for potential emergencies during the flight, called Inspire 4. Most everything appeared to be going well, he had time to chat with St. Jude’s patients, test himself medically, 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.
Nearly 600 people have reached space – a scorecard that began 60 years ago and is expected to skyrocket soon as space tourism warms up.
SpaceX director Benji Reid expects six private flights a year between astronaut launches for NASA. Along with former NASA astronauts, four SpaceX flights have already been booked to take customers to the space station. 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.
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