SpaceX capsule returns four civilians from orbit, kicks off first tourism mission


“Thanks a lot SpaceX, it was the heck of a ride for us,” billionaire and mission commander Jared Isaacman can be heard saying on the company’s livestream.

Tourists were shown watching movies and sometimes heard responding to SpaceX’s mission control within their full autonomy Spacecraft before it began the nail-biting process of re-entering Earth’s atmosphere. Traveling at more than 17,000 mph, the spacecraft used Earth’s own thick air to slow itself down, reaching temperatures up to 3,500º Fahrenheit outside the craft in the process.

The Crew Dragon capsule, which is designed to allow temperatures in the cabin to never exceed 85º, used its heat shield to protect the crew from intense heat and plasma buildup as it fell back toward the ocean. During a Netflix documentary about the Inspiration 4 mission, Musk described a capsule as “coming like a blazing meteor” through reentry.

“And so it’s hard not to vaporize,” he said.

The spacecraft then deployed two sets of parachutes in quick succession, further slowing its descent, before the capsule sank off the coast of Florida. Recovery ships waited nearby to take the capsule out of the water.

Despite the risks, a former NASA chief and career safety officials have said that the Crew Dragon is probably the safest piloted vehicle ever built. And the vehicle had completed two successful trips into space with professional astronauts even before this group of space tourists embarked on their multi-day pleasure voyage.

NS passengers Isaacman, 38, who personally financed and arranged the trip with SpaceX and its CEO, Elon Musk; Hayley Arcinex, 29, a childhood cancer survivor and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital physician assistant; Sean Prokator, 51, a geologist and community college teacher with a Ph.D.; and Chris Sambrowski, a 42-year-old Lockheed Martin employee and lifelong space fan who claimed his seat via an online raffle. Isaacman has billed the mission as a St. Jude fundraiser, and it has so far raised $154 million out of its $200 million goal.

Although he is not the first tourist to travel into orbit, his mission, called Inspiration 4, was notable because it did not include a stop at the International Space Station under the tutelage of professional astronauts, as in previous missions to space tourists. was included. Rather, four spaceflight novices have spent the past three days flying freely on their 13-foot-wide capsule at an altitude of about 350 miles—where the ISS is, and 100 miles higher than any human. decade.

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During their stay in space, citizens on board said they would do a little scientific research focusing on how their bodies react in space, taking time to interact with their families, a large look at the dome-shaped window called the “cupola,” and listen music. During a livestream shared with the public on Friday, Proctor also showed off some of the artwork he did during his stay with metal markers and Sambrowski struck a ukulele that will be auctioned as part of a St. Jude fundraiser .

The Inspiration4 Twitter account also shared footage of Archinox talking to his St. Jude patients, and Isaacman rang the closing bell of the New York Stock Exchange via satellite feed on Friday afternoon.

In addition, some updates were shared with the public while the crew was in orbit. The first live audio or visual from inside the crew capsule was shared on Friday afternoon, nearly two days after its launch.

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During the previous SpaceX Crew Dragon missions—all of which have flown for NASA and carried professional astronauts to the International Space Station—the public has more insight. The space agency and dozens of its communications personnel have worked with SpaceX to share practically every moment of the astronauts’ journey from launch to the International Space Station.

But the mission left the public at large in the dark when questions arose about the crew’s schedule and how they were feeling while in orbit. Even though development of the Crew Dragon spacecraft was largely funded by taxpayers and SpaceX rents out NASA facilities to support all of its missions, Inspire 4 is considered a private, commercial mission. That means SpaceX’s customers only need to be as transparent as they want to be.

There could be many reasons for space tourists shying away from publicity during their travels. For example, it is possible that the crew was not feeling so well after reaching first orbit. According to a NASA research paper, “many astronauts report symptoms of motion sickness shortly after arriving in space and again after returning to Earth” and getting a restful night’s sleep in orbit” also for many crew members aboard the shuttle mission was a serious challenge.” It is also possible that the four novice space explorers wanted their privacy or simply wanted to enjoy the experience without having to talk about it.

But a favorable review of their experience may be important. SpaceX hopes this mission will be the first of many such, creating a new line of business for the company in which it will use Crew Dragon to fly commercial missions with tourists or private researchers, rather than just professional astronauts. does for.

SpaceX already has contracts for five other private missions, as well as at least four additional NASA-contracted missions.

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