SpaceX’s private Inspiration4 crew returns to Earth with historic water landing off the coast of Florida


CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla .– After three days in space, SpaceX’s first fully civilian crew returned to Earth tonight, crashing off the coast of Florida to end a historic mission.

“It was an amazing race for everyone,” Inspiration4 mission director Kip O’Keefe said at a post-splashdown press conference. “We couldn’t ask for a more successful mission.”

The SpaceX Crew Dragon Resilience gently landed in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Cape Canaveral, Florida this evening (September 18) at 7:06 p.m. EDT (11:06 p.m. GMT) marking the end of the Inspiration4 mission, a private space flight. which launched four civilians into orbit earlier this week.

The theft was part of a massive fundraising effort for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Shift4 Payments four-billionaire Jared Isaacman bought the flight from SpaceX to raise $ 200 million for childhood cancer research.

“Inspiration4, on behalf of SpaceX, welcome to planet Earth,” Kris Young, director of space operations at SpaceX’s mission control, told the crew after their successful landing. “Your mission has shown the world that space is for all of us and that ordinary people can have an extraordinary impact on the world around them. Thank you for sharing your leadership, hope, generosity and prosperity – and congratulations.”

“Thank you very much, SpaceX. It was a hell of a ride for us,” Isaacman replied. “We’re just getting started.”

Video: Landing! SpaceX Inspiration4 crew back on Earth
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The Crew Dragon Resilience descends in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Florida on September 18, 2021.

The Crew Dragon Resilience descends in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Florida on September 18, 2021. (Image credit: John Kraus / Inspiration4)
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The Crew Dragon Resilience descends in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Florida on September 18, 2021. (Image credit: SpaceX)
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The Crew Dragon Resilience descends in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Florida on September 18, 2021. (Image credit: SpaceX)
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The Crew Dragon Resilience descends in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Florida on September 18, 2021. (Image credit: SpaceX)
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A view of the Crew Dragon as it descended towards Earth. (Image credit: SpaceX)
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Inspiration4 mission specialist Chris Sembroski watches

Inspiration4 mission specialist Chris Sembroski watches “Spaceballs” as the crew prepares to land. (Image credit: SpaceX)
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(Image credit: SpaceX)
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A view of the Crew Dragon Resilience as it returns to Earth on September 18, 2021.

A view of the astronauts inside the Crew Dragon Resilience as it returns to Earth on September 18, 2021. (Image credit: SpaceX)

Isaacman is joined by Hayley Arceneaux, medical assistant and childhood cancer survivor; Chris Sembroski, data engineer; and Sian Proctor, geoscientist and community college professor. The four citizens make up Inspiration4’s crew, and their flight marks the first time a spacecraft has transported humans into space without a professional astronaut on board.

“It’s a great mission, a great experience and we are so grateful to the whole crew – Jared and Chris, Sian and Hayley – for participating and really making this a reality,” Benji Reed, senior director of human space flight programs at SpaceX, said at the press conference.

“Overall the mission was great – wonderful weather from start to finish – and it was really a great experience for everyone on the ground, and Dragon did very well,” he said. he adds.

Learn more about the crew:

In orbit, the crew performed a multitude of medical experiments, collecting samples and data that will help researchers better understand how microgravity affects the human body.

During their flight, the crew traveled to an altitude of 367 miles (590 km) above Earth, according to SpaceX – superior to both the International Space Station and the Hubble Space Telescope. We hope this will provide more information about space radiation and its effects on humans.

“It’s really interesting to see how fluids change with this microgravity environment,” Arceneaux told viewers on an in-flight show on Friday (September 17). “And this is something that scientists are looking at, so we’re happy to contribute to it.”

“We also took several swabs from different parts of our body to assess the microbiome and how it changes during those three days in space,” she added. “I also gave a bunch of samples, blood samples, for the research teams as well as cognitive tests.”

They were also treated to epic views of the planet below. Their spaceship, Crew Dragon Resilience, received a unique modification after its last space flight. SpaceX engineers removed the craft’s docking adapter and in its place installed a giant dome window, called a cupola.

“We have spent so much time in this dome, and we can see the entire perimeter of the Earth, which is so [an] incredible prospect, “Arceneaux said on the show.” And I have to say the views are out of this world. “

Proctor and Arceneaux have demonstrated that multiple crew members can fit in the dome at the same time, and said the crew spend as much time as possible gazing at Earth. Proctor showed off one of the drawings she was working on in space, which is a depiction of their Dragon spaceship launching into space and drawn with metallic markers.

Before launch, she was especially excited to see how her paints and markers worked in microgravity, as fluids behave very differently in space than here on Earth.

Chris Sembroski holds the ukulele he brought on the Inspiration4 mission. In the background, Sian Proctor shows his art of space. (Image credit: SpaceX)

Sembroski developed this by saying “Because the mission is to open the last frontier to more people, especially people who are not professional astronauts, the crew brings more humanities to space.”

And that means not only art projects, but also music. Sembroski brought with him a custom ukulele that was made for the mission. He said he enjoyed trying to practice playing the instrument in microgravity and even played a few chords on the show.

“One of the funniest things about being in space is microgravity,” Arceneaux said, adding that the lack of gravity “allowed us to do all kinds of cool flips and spins.”

Her teammates said she does a lot of microgravity flips. They also took the time to really show the zero-g indicator that was selected for the mission. Usually some kind of stuffed animal, selected by the crew, is used to show when the crew has reached space.

For this particular mission, the crew selected a plush dog that represents the therapy dogs employed by St. Jude.

“Jude”, the Inspiration4 crew’s zero-g indicator, floats on the end of a tether after entering Earth orbit on September 15, 2021. (Image credit: SpaceX)

“So that was the first thing we had to throw out every time we went into space to show that we were really in a zero gravity environment,” Arceneaux said as he floated it around the cabin. “This cute little guy represents the therapy dog ​​St. Jude.”

She went on to explain how St. Jude has two different golden retriever dogs that are able to sit with children when they are afraid and even go through the MRI machine or CAT scanner before the children do. do to show them that this is not the case. so scary.

“So we wanted to bring one of these really adorable dogs into space,” Arceneaux said. “But what’s really cool is that these dogs are on sale, and all the money from the sale of our zero-g indicators will go to St. Jude.”

The crew was also able to phone St. Jude’s patients from space, chat with the children and answer their questions.

Now that the crew are back on Earth, they will be examined by medical staff and then transported by helicopter to NASA’s space shuttle landing facilities. Their Dragon capsule will travel through Port Canaveral to SpaceX’s facilities where it will be unloaded, inspected and potentially ready to fly again. Although at this point we don’t know what his next assignment will be.

SpaceX is planning another civilian flight early next year. This mission is a partnership with Axiom Space which will transport a crew of four private citizens (including a former NASA astronaut) on a trip to the International Space Station.

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated with information from SpaceX’s post-splashdown press conference.

Follow Amy Thompson on Twitter @astrogingersnap. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.


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