SpaceX capsule with world’s first all-civilian orbital crew set for splashdown By Reuters
© Reuters. The Inspiration4 crew Jared Isaacman (Sian Proctor), Hayley Arceneaux and Chris Sembroski are seen here on the first day of their mission in space. SpaceX/Handout via REUTERS
By Steve Gorman
(Reuters) – The quartet of newly minted citizen astronauts comprising the SpaceX Inspiration4 mission were due to splash down in the Atlantic off Florida on Saturday, completing a three-day flight of the first all-civilian crew ever launched into Earth orbit.
The SpaceX Crew Dragon completed two rocket burns on Friday in preparation for the capsule’s atmospheric return and reentry to Earth.
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk founded SpaceX to launch the Dragon capsule (named Resilience) into space around 7 p.m. ET. This is just before sunset.
SpaceX was the provider of the spacecraft. They launched it in Florida, and then flew it to the headquarters in suburban Los Angeles.
On Wednesday, the Inspiration4 crew took off from Cape Canaveral’s Kennedy Space Center on a two-stage 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 a human has traveled from Earth since 1972’s NASA Apollo moon program.
This was also Musk’s first space tourism flight. It is also a significant leap forward from competitors that offer rides on rocket ships for well-off customers who are willing to spend a lot to enjoy the thrill of spaceflight as well as earning amateur astronaut wings.
Jared Isaacman (chief executive at Shift4 Payments Inc), was the Inspiration4 team’s wealthy patron and assumed the “commander” role.
For all four Crew Dragon seats, he had paid an unspecified but reportedly large amount to Musk.
Isaacman was joined by his three crewmates, Sian Proctor (51) and Hayley Arceneaux (29) – a geoscientist, former NASA astronaut candidate, as well as Chris Sembroski (42) and Chris Sembroski (42) – two of whom were less wealthy.
Isaacman created the flight to help raise funds and awareness for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Arceneaux is a former patient at this hospital.
Although Proctor and Isaacman are licensed pilots, the Inspiration4 crew did not have any part in operating the spacecraft. It was controlled by ground-based teams and onboard guidance system.
SpaceX is already the best-known player in the rapidly growing field of commercial rocket enterprises. It has launched numerous cargo payloads for NASA and sent astronauts into space.
Virgin Galactic Holdings Inc (NYSE:) and Blue Origin were rivals and launched their own astrotourism services. Each of their founders, billionaires Richard Branson (NASDAQ:) and Jeff Bezos (NASDAQ:) respectively, went along.
The suborbital flights took only minutes as compared to Inspiration4’s three day orbit.
Steve Gorman, Los Angeles. Editing by Daniel Wallis.