Successful launch and return of the Inspiration4 mission opens new chapter for private space travel
SpaceX’s Inspiration4 mission has safely landed back on Earth as the four space tourists splashed down in the Atlantic off the coast of Florida on Saturday, near where they had taken off three days before.
The quartet of space tourists were carried down by parachutes on board their Dragon capsule, which had autonomously carried them around orbit since they were shot into space.
It follows other pioneering flights towards space by Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos in recent months, though lasted far longer and went much further.
“Welcome to the second space age,” Todd “Leif” Ericson, mission director for the Inspiration4 venture, told reporters on a conference call after the crew returned.
The mission marked the first to go into orbit without a professional astronaut. Instead, four civilians led by billionaire Jason Isaacman sat aboard SpaceX’s fully automated Dragon capsule.
The capsule, dubbed Resilience, reached an unusually high altitude of 363 miles – surpassing the International Space Station by 100 miles – after Wednesday night’s liftoff, before streaking back through the atmosphere early Saturday evening.
At around 7pm EDT (2300 GMT), the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule parachuted into calm seas following an automated reentry descent.
Within an hour the four crew members were seen emerging 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 – Jared Isaacman, 38, Hayley Arceneaux, 29, Chris Sembroski, 42, and Sian Proctor, 51 – waved from the deck and gave a thumbs-up before being escorted to a medical station on board for checkups at sea.
“On behalf of SpaceX, welcome back to planet Earth,” a SpaceX mission controller said after splashdown. “Your mission has shown the world that space is for all of us.”
In response, Mr Issacman said: “That was a heck of a ride for us … we’re just getting started.”
They were later flown by helicopter back to Cape Canaveral for reunions with loved ones.