CAP CANAVERAL, Florida – Four space tourists safely ended their pioneering orbit journey on Saturday with a water landing in the Atlantic off the coast of Florida.
Their SpaceX capsule was parachuted into the ocean just before sunset, not far from where their chartered flight began three days earlier.
The fully amateur crew were the first to tour the world without a professional astronaut.
The billionaire who paid undisclosed millions for the trip and his three guests wanted to show that ordinary people could get into orbit on their own, and SpaceX founder Elon Musk took them as the first tourists to ascend. on company rockets.
“Your mission has shown the world that space is for all of us,” SpaceX Mission Control said.
“It was one hell of a trip for us… I’m just getting started,” responded travel sponsor Jared Isaacman, referring to the growing number of private flights on the horizon.
SpaceX’s fully automated Dragon capsule reached an unusually high altitude of 585 kilometers (363 miles) after takeoff on Wednesday night. Passing 160 kilometers past the International Space Station, passengers savored views of Earth through a large bubble-shaped window added to the top of the capsule.
The four men made their way through the atmosphere early Saturday evening, the first space travelers to complete their flight in the Atlantic from Apollo 9 in 1969. The previous two ditching SpaceX crew – carrying astronauts for NASA – were in the Gulf of Mexico.
Within minutes, a pair of SpaceX boats pulled up beside the floating capsule. When the capsule hatch was opened on the recovery vessel, healthcare worker Hayley Arceneaux was the first to exit, showing a big smile and a thumbs-up.
Everything seemed good and happy.
Their families were waiting near the stage for Wednesday night’s launch from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.
This time, NASA was little more than an encouraging spectator, its only connection being the Kennedy launch pad once used for Apollo lunar fire and shuttle crews, but now leased by SpaceX.
Isaacman, 38, an accomplished entrepreneur and pilot, aimed to raise $ 200 million for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. By donating $ 100 million himself, he organized a lottery for one of the four seats. Late Saturday, Musk tweeted that he was donating $ 50 million, putting it on top.
For the final seat, Isaacman held a contest for clients of his Allentown, Pa., Payment processing company, Shift4 Payments.
Arceneaux, 29, medical assistant from St. Jude who was treated at hospital in Memphis, Tennessee almost two decades ago for bone cancer, and competition winners Chris Sembroski, 42, data engineer in Everett, Wash., and Sian Proctor, 51, a community college teacher, scientist, and artist from Tempe, Arizona.
“Best race of my life! Proctor tweeted a few hours after the landing.
Foreigners until March, the four spent six months training and preparing for potential emergencies during the flight – but there was no need to intervene, officials said after their return. During the trip called Inspiration4, they had time to chat with patients in St. Jude, perform medical tests on themselves, ring the closing bell for the New York Stock Exchange and draw pictures. and the ukulele.
Arceneaux, the youngest American in space and the first to wear a prosthesis, assured her patients: “I was a little girl undergoing cancer treatment like many of you, and if I can. do, you can do it. “
They also got calls from Tom Cruise, interested in his own SpaceX flight to the space station for the shoot, and rock band U2’s Bono.
Even their space menu was not typical: cold pizzas and sandwiches, but also pasta bolognese and Mediterranean lamb.
Before starting the descent, Sembroski was so calm that he was seen in the capsule watching Mel Brooks’ 1987 film “Spaceballs” on his tablet.
“What an incredible adventure!” he tweeted later.
Congratulations poured in, including from the Association of Space Explorers to its four new members.
Aside from issues with a toilet fan and a bad temperature sensor in an engine, the theft went extremely well, officials said. Some of the four passengers suffered motion sickness when they reached orbit, as did some astronauts.
“It was a very clean mission from start to finish,” said Benji Reed, senior director of SpaceX.
Reed plans up to six private flights a year for SpaceX, sandwiched between astronaut launches for NASA. Four SpaceX flights are already booked to transport paying customers to the space station, accompanied by former NASA astronauts. The first is slated for early next year with three businessmen paying $ 55 million each. Russia is also planning to hire an actor and director to shoot next month and a Japanese tycoon in December.
Customers interested in fast space travel are turning to Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin. The two flew their own rockets to the far reaches of space in July to boost ticket sales; their flights lasted 10 to 15 minutes.
The 60-year-old dashboard now has 591 people who have reached space or its edges – and is expected to skyrocket as space tourism heats up.
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