The historic all-civilian crew launched into space by Hawthorne-based SpaceX returned to earth Saturday after three days of orbiting the earth — a mission spearheaded by an entrepreneur to raise funds for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
The flight, dubbed Inspiration4, ended at 4:06 p.m. California time when the spacecraft Dragon safely splashed down of the coast of Florida.
“Dragon performed a series of departure phasing burns to leave the circular orbit of 575 kilometers and then jettisoned its trunk ahead of deorbit burns. After reentering the Earth’s atmosphere, the spacecraft deployed its two drogue and four main parachutes in preparation for the soft water landing,” SpaceX tweeted.
“Upon splashdown, the Inspiration4 astronauts were welcomed home by the SpaceX team and quickly brought on board the recovery vessel. SpaceX will transport Dragon back to Cape Canaveral for inspections and refurbishment ahead of future human spaceflight missions,” the company also tweeted.
The flight was led by Jared Isaacman, founder and CEO of Shift4 Payments. Isaacman said the trip would generate $200 million for St. Jude, with half of that amount coming from him personally and the rest generated by other fundraisers and donations — most of them from people hoping to win a seat inside the SpaceX Dragon capsule.
Isaacman, a trained pilot, served as flight commander. He was joined by Hayley Arceneaux, a physician assistant at St. Jude in Memphis and a pediatric cancer survivor; Chis Sembroski, an Air Force veteran and aerospace data engineer from Washington state; and Sian Proctor, a pilot and geoscientist from Tempe, Arizona.
Sembroski, 42, and Proctor, 51, both earned their seats on the flight through contests. Proctor was entered as a Shift4 customer who runs a space-art business. Sembroski entered a contest to win a seat by donating to St. Jude. He actually didn’t win that contest, but a friend did. The friend was unable to make the trip, and recommended Sembroski go instead.
The Inspiration4 mission launched shortly after 5 p.m. California time Wednesday from Cape Canaveral in Florida. It marked the first time an all-civilian crew — none of them professional astronauts — has traveled into space.
Recent well-publicized flights involving billionaires Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson reached only lower altitudes, no higher than about 65 miles. Inspiration4 was expected to soar to 575 kilometers, or roughly 357 miles.
According to SpaceX, that trajectory means the Dragon space capsule flew “father than any human spaceflight since the Hubble (Telescope) missions.” It actually few higher than the International Space Station.
For the benefit of the tourists aboard, the Dragon spaceship carrying them was outfitted with a three-layer observation dome.
But it wasn’t all be fun and games during the three-day flight. The crew also conducted some scientific work on the trip, “designed to advance human health on Earth and during future long-duration spaceflights.”
“The crew of Inspiration4 is eager to use our mission to help make a better future for those who will launch in the years and decades to come,” Isaacman said in a statement.
“In all of human history, fewer than 600 humans have reached space. We are proud that our flight will help influence all those who will travel after us and look forward to seeing how this mission will help shape the beginning of a new era for space exploration.”
The crew also carried items into space that will then be auctioned off to raise more money for St. Jude. Among them the “first-ever minted NFT song,” a performance by rockers Kings of Leon of the band’s tune “Time in Disguise.” Arceneaux played the NFT song aboard the capsule. NFT stands for non-fungible token, in this case a one-of-a-kind digital file.
Other items on the mission and up for auction include mission jackets with artwork by St. Jude patients; 66 pounds of hops that will be used in a beer brewed by Samuel Adams; a ukulele from Martin Guitar; and a Time magazine cover autographed by the four crew members.
Although none of the crew members are professional astronauts, all underwent rigorous astronaut training at SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne. The sessions included G-force training on Mig-29, AlphaJets and LC-39 aircraft.
The first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket that blasted the crew into space was successfully recovered by SpaceX, which landed the rocket on a barge floating in the Atlantic Ocean. It was the third time the rocket’s first stage has been used in a launch.
>> Want to read more stories like this? Get our Free Daily Newsletters Here!Follow us: