OnTheWater

SpaceX capsule with world’s first all-civilian orbital crew splashes down off Florida

Breadcrumb Trail Links

  1. World

Author of the article:

Reuters

Publishing date:

Sep 18, 2021  •  September 18, 2021  •  3 minute read  •  Join the conversation This screen grab shows SpaceX's Inspiration4 with first all-civilian crew aboard returning to Earth off the Florida coast on Sept. 18, 2021.This screen grab shows SpaceX’s Inspiration4 with first all-civilian crew aboard returning to Earth off the Florida coast on Sept. 18, 2021. Photo by HANDOUT/NASA /AFP via Getty Images

Article content

The quartet of newly minted citizen astronauts comprising the SpaceX Inspiration4 mission safely splashed down in the Atlantic off Florida’s coast on Saturday, completing a three-day flight of the first all-civilian crew ever launched into Earth orbit.

Advertisement

This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule, dubbed Resilience, parachuted into calm seas around 7 p.m. EDT, shortly before sunset, following an automated re-entry descent, SpaceX showed during a live webcast on its YouTube channel.

Within an hour the four smiling crew members were seen emerging one by one from the capsule’s side hatch after the vehicle, visibly scorched on its exterior, was hoisted from the ocean to the deck of a SpaceX recovery vessel.

Each of the four stood on the deck for a few moments in front of the capsule to wave and give thumbs-up to the cameras. Each was then escorted to a medical station onboard for checkups they were to undergo at sea.

Afterward, the amateur astronauts were to be flown by helicopter back to Cape Canaveral for reunions with loved ones, SpaceX said.

The return from orbit followed a plunge through Earth’s atmosphere generating frictional heat that sent temperatures surrounding the outside of the capsule soaring to 1,927 degrees Celsius. The astronauts’ flight suits, fitted to special ventilation systems, were designed to keep them cool if the cabin heated up.

Applause was heard from the SpaceX flight control centre in suburban Los Angeles as the first parachutes were seen deploying, slowing the capsule’s descent to about 24.14 kilometres per hour before splashdown, and again as the craft hit the water.

Advertisement

This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content

The astronauts were cheered again as they stepped onto the deck of the recovery ship.

First out was Hayely Arceneaux, 29, a physician assistant at St. Jude Children’s Research Center in Tennessee, a childhood bone cancer survivor herself who became the youngest person ever reach Earth orbit on the Inspiration4 mission.

She was followed in rapid succession by geoscientist and former NASA astronaut candidate Sian Proctor, 51, aerospace data engineer and Air Force veteran Chris Sembroski, 42, and finally the crew’s billionaire benefactor and “mission commander” Jared Isaacman, 38.

SpaceX, the private rocketry company founded by Tesla Inc electric automaker CEO Elon Musk, supplied the spacecraft, launched it, flew it from the company’s suburban Los Angeles headquarters and handled the recovery operation.

Advertisement

This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content

The Inspiration4 team blasted off on Wednesday from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral atop one of SpaceX’s two-stage reusable Falcon 9 rockets.

Within three hours the crew capsule had reached a cruising orbital altitude of just over 585 km – higher than the International Space Station or Hubble Space Telescope, and the farthest any human has flown from Earth since NASA’s Apollo moon program ended in 1972.

We apologize, but this video has failed to load.

It also marked the debut flight of Musk’s new space tourism business and a leap ahead of competitors likewise offering rides on rocket ships to well-heeled customers willing to pay a small fortune to experience the exhilaration of spaceflight and earn amateur astronaut wings.

“That was a heck of a ride for us,” Isaacman, chief executive of the e-commerce firm Shift4 Payments Inc, radioed from inside the capsule moments after splashdown. “We’re just getting started.”

Advertisement

This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content

We apologize, but this video has failed to load.

He had paid an undisclosed but reportedly enormous sum – put by Time magazine at roughly $200 million – to fellow billionaire Musk for all four seats aboard the Crew Dragon.

Isaacman conceived of the flight primarily to raise awareness and donations for St. Jude, one of his favorite causes, where Arceneaux now works.

The Inspiration4 crew had no part to play in flying the spacecraft, which was operated by ground-based flight teams and onboard guidance systems, even though Isaacman and Proctor are both licensed pilots.

The successful launch and safe return of the mission should boost the fledgling astro-tourism sector.

SpaceX already ranks as the most well-established player in the burgeoning constellation of commercial rocket ventures, having launched numerous cargo payloads and astronauts to the space station for NASA.

Two rival operators, Virgin Galactic Holdings Inc and Blue Origin, inaugurated their own space tourism services in recent months, with their respective founding executives, billionaires Richard Branson and Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos, each going along for the ride.

Those suborbital flights, lasting a matter of minutes, were short hops compared with Inspiration4’s three days in orbit.

Share this article in your social network

    Advertisement

    This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

    The Toronto Sun Headline News logo

    Sign up to receive daily headline news from the Toronto SUN, a division of Postmedia Network Inc.

    By clicking on the sign up button you consent to receive the above newsletter from Postmedia Network Inc. You may unsubscribe any time by clicking on the unsubscribe link at the bottom of our emails. Postmedia Network Inc. | 365 Bloor Street East, Toronto, Ontario, M4W 3L4 | 416-383-2300

    Thanks for signing up!

    A welcome email is on its way. If you don’t see it, please check your junk folder.

    The next issue of The Toronto Sun Headline News will soon be in your inbox.

    We encountered an issue signing you up. Please try again

    Comments

    Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion and encourage all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments may take up to an hour for moderation before appearing on the site. We ask you to keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications—you will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, there is an update to a comment thread you follow or if a user you follow comments. Visit our Community Guidelines for more information and details on how to adjust your email settings.

    Read more from this Story