A perfect splashdown of the Crew Dragon Space Capsule into the Atlantic Ocean on Saturday night capped the historic, three-day mission for the first all-civilian crew ever to fly into space.
Two small boats raced to the bobbing capsule just after splashdown shortly after 7 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (11 p.m. GMT) in the setting sun off the coast of Florida. One of the priorities was getting the crew vomit bags, as seasickness often creates a problem for astronauts landing in water.
But the live feed from inside the capsule showed nothing but smiles and fist-bumps for the two-man, two-woman crew as they waited to exit from the capsule. Later, they got medical check-ups before reuniting with friends and family at Cape Canaveral, Florida, from where they had blasted off on Wednesday night.
The Inspiration4, the world’s first all-civilian mission was the brainchild of billionaire Elon Musk, who founded his SpaceX company 20 years ago.
But Musk was not on board. Instead, another billionaire, 38-year-old Jared Isaacman, who largely funded the mission, was joined by Sian Proctor, an educator from Arizona, Chris Sembroski, an aerospace data engineer who won a lottery contest to book his seat, and Haley Arceneaux, a bone cancer survivor and physician’s assistant at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital for young cancer patients.
The mission was also used as a fundraiser for St. Jude, and SpaceX reported on Saturday night that about $157 million had been raised for cancer research.
The mission was notable for several reasons: it flew higher in space than the International Space Station and lasted far longer than the space flights this past summer by billionaires Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos, who were on board short flights with both civilians and professional astronauts. Both of those flights also landed on solid ground just minutes after touching the boundary of space. And the Inspiration4 mission got very little input from America’s space agency, NASA.
But part of the mission of Inspiration4 was to show the world the potential fun side of space tourism.
Proctor, who just missed the chance to become a professional astronaut in 2009, is also a painter, and she showed off a painting she did in space, during the live stream of the capsule during its flight. And Sembroski, who is also a musician, played his ukulele in space.
Musk, who is quoted as having said that he wants to eventually colonize Mars, said that the Inspiration4 mission was a way to show that space tourism can progress from a playground for the super-rich to a viable business for average citizens.
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