SpaceX brings four tourists back to Earth from orbit

Space Industry Updates

Elon Musk’s SpaceX on Saturday recorded another first for the space tourism industry, returning four private citizens from orbit during a landing off the coast of Florida.

The three-day trip was the first to carry a crew made up entirely of space tourists into orbit. After taking off from the Kennedy Space Center on Wednesday, the fully automated mission circled into low Earth orbit before returning without a problem at 7:06 p.m. local time.

Jeff Bezos’ private space company Blue Origin was the first to take a fully civilian crew into space in July, when the Amazon founder was on board for what was also his company’s first launch to transport. passengers.

However, this flight only took its crew of four to the edge of space and lasted about 10 minutes. In comparison, the SpaceX flight, dubbed Inspiration4, circled the Earth at a maximum height of 367 miles, more than five times that, and gave its passengers an extended experience of life in microgravity.

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule splashes off the coast of Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Saturday. © via REUTERS

The mission underscored the extent of the lead Musk’s SpaceX has gained over rivals in the private space industry. His Crew Dragon spacecraft was developed to transport astronauts from NASA to the International Space Station – a feat he first achieved last year. A rival Boeing project has been mired in delays, and SpaceX remains the only private space company to have put astronauts into orbit.

Echoing recent trips to space by Bezos and Richard Branson of Virgin Galactic, the Inspiration4 Journey was led by a billionaire businessman. But it captured the public imagination with the inclusion of three passengers who did not have to pay for their seats, making the crew more representative of the wider population than any previous space mission.

Jared Isaacman, the founder of Shift4Payments, reportedly paid some $ 200 million for the theft. Others he chose for the trip were Hayley Arceneaux, a medical assistant and a childhood cancer survivor; Chris Sembroski, data engineer; and Sian Proctor, geoscientist and community college professor. Proctor, who was made the pilot of the spacecraft, was the first black woman to hold the title.

The passengers were largely on their own, although they also performed some minor medical experiments on the effects of living at a relatively high altitude. They spent most of their time looking at Earth through a large glass dome that had been added to the nose of the craft in place of its usual mooring mechanism, doing backflips and experimenting with passes. personal times like drawing and playing the ukulele.

The sight of ordinary citizens experiencing space travel awakened one of the dreams of NASA’s space shuttle program, when the agency hoped to use non-astronauts to generate greater interest and help communicate the space experience. The plan ended in disaster in 1986 when the first passenger, teacher Christa McAuliffe, died in the Challenger crash.

Speaking to the Inspiration4 crew after landing at 7:06 p.m. local time on Saturday, SpaceX COO Kris Young said: “Your mission has shown the world that space is for all of us, and that ordinary people can have extraordinary impacts on the world around them. “

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