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All-civilian Inspiration4 crew shows off in zero-gravity orbit By Reuters


© Reuters. FILE PHOTO A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and the Crew Dragon capsule are launched with four astronauts aboard a NASA Commercial Crew Mission at Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral (Florida), September 15, 2021. REUTERS/Thom Baur


By Steve Gorman

(Reuters) – A 42-year-old data engineer on the first all-civilian astronaut crew to reach orbit made some spaceflight history on Friday, with a zero-gravity ukulele performance in a SpaceX capsule hundreds of miles above Earth’s surface.

Chris Sembroski, a Lockheed Martin (NYSE:) employee and U.S. Air Force veteran, strummed a few chords for home-bound viewers during a 10-minute show-and-tell session by the four-member Inspiration4 team as they flew at about 17,500 miles per hour (28,000 km per hour) over Europe.

SpaceX, a private rocketship business owned by Elon Musk (NASDAQ:) Inc, an electric carmaker and high tech mogul, said that they would be returning to Earth Saturday. The company stated that splashdown would take place at just after 7 PM EDT (23300 GMT), in the Atlantic off Florida’s Coast.

SpaceX’s YouTube channel, which provided the Crew Dragon capsule and launched it from Florida, was used to livestream the crew’s appearance. SpaceX’s Los Angeles headquarters also operated the craft.

Musk was paid an undisclosed amount by Jared Isaacman (chief executive of e-commerce company Shift4 Payments Inc), for his flight, which is reported to have cost around $200 million according Time magazine. This flight marked the start of SpaceX’s astrotourism program.

Sembroski wasn’t the only one to show off his spaceflight hobbies.

Sian Proctor (51), a geoscientist who was a former NASA astronaut candidate, displayed a portion of her in orbit artwork. It depicted the Crew Dragon capsule being taken away by a dragon.

Hayley Arceneaux is a 29-year-old physician assistant at St. Jude Children’s Research Center. Hayley was once a patient with childhood cancer and loved to twirl around in the cabin.

Hayley excels at spinning. Proctor stated that Hayley has been spinning since the day we arrived in orbit.

Proctor claimed she was able to see aurora borealis in the darkness below, but it wasn’t possible to display spectacular views from the capsule’s observation dome. The camera did not capture the image well enough for viewers.

Arceneaux showed off another small, plush dog dressed in white. This is what crew use to determine their zero-gravity setting. It will float freely within the cabin when it is in zero gravity. This toy was loosely inspired by a St. Jude comfort dog, a golden retriever.

As part of Isaacman’s larger Inspiration4 charity mission, replicas of this zero-G dog will be sold in order to raise funds for St. Jude.

Inspiration4 blasted off on Wednesday from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. The crew capsule reached an orbital altitude just above 363 miles (or 585 kilometers) within three hours. This is higher than either the International Space Station, or the Hubble Space Telescope. It also marks the longest distance any human being has traveled from Earth since 1972’s NASA Apollo moon program.

The crew returned to Earth on Friday, so the spacecraft performed two rocket “burns”. These were done in order to lower altitude and coordinate the capsule with its landing site.

SpaceX was ahead of Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic who also offer rocket ship rides to those willing to fork out a modest amount.