SpaceX capsule with first fully civilian crew crashes off Florida coast



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

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule, dubbed Resilience, was parachuted into the sea around 7 p.m. EDT, shortly before sunset, after an automated re-entry descent, SpaceX said in a live webcast on its YouTube channel. .

The return from orbit followed a dive into the Earth’s atmosphere generating frictional heat that raised temperatures around the exterior of the capsule to 3,500 degrees Fahrenheit (1,927 degrees Celsius). Astronauts’ flight suits are designed to keep them cool if the cabin gets warm.

Applause was heard from SpaceX’s flight control center on the outskirts of Los Angeles as the first parachutes deployed, slowing the descent of the capsule to about 15 miles per hour (24.14 kilometers per hour) before the ditching, and again when the craft struck the water.

SpaceX recovery boats were shown approaching the waterproof Crew Dragon as it straightened into the ocean, as recovery crews scaled the capsule, attaching the rigging before hoisting it out of the water. Crew members will be removed from the capsule once it is safely placed on the floating recovery vessel.

After undergoing medical checks at sea, the four amateur astronauts will be returned by helicopter to Cape Canaveral to reunite with their loved ones, SpaceX said.

SpaceX founder and chief engineer Elon Musk attends a post-launch press conference to discuss the in-flight test of the SpaceX Crew Dragon astronaut capsule at the Kennedy Space Center (Credit: REUTERS)

SpaceX, the private rocket company founded by Elon Musk, CEO of automaker Tesla Inc, said it would take about an hour to get the crew out of the capsule. A camera filmed from inside the cabin showed them sitting calmly strapped to their seats.

SpaceX supplied the spacecraft, launched it from Florida, and flew it from the company’s headquarters on the outskirts of Los Angeles.

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

In less than three hours, the crew’s capsule had reached a cruising orbital altitude of just over 363 miles (585 km) – higher than the International Space Station or the Hubble Space Telescope, and farthest than human has flown from Earth since the end of NASA’s Apollo lunar program in 1972..

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

The Inspiration4 team was led by its wealthy benefactor, Jared Isaacman, managing director of e-commerce company Shift4 Payments Inc, who took on the role of mission “commander”.

“It was a hell of a ride for us,” he said over the radio from the capsule moments after the landing. “We’re just getting started.”

He had paid an undisclosed but apparently huge sum – estimated by Time magazine to be around $ 200 million – to his billionaire colleague Musk for the four seats aboard the Crew Dragon.

Isaacman was joined by three less wealthy teammates he had selected – geoscientist and former NASA astronaut candidate Sian Proctor, 51, physician assistant and childhood bone cancer survivor Hayley Arceneaux, 29 , and aerospace data engineer and Air Force veteran Chris Sembroski, 42.

Isaacman designed the flight primarily to raise awareness and donate for one of his favorite causes, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, a major pediatric cancer center in Memphis, Tennessee, where Arceneaux was a patient and now works.

The Inspiration4 crew played no role in piloting the spacecraft, which was operated by ground flight crews and on-board guidance systems, although Isaacman and Proctor are both licensed pilots.

SpaceX has already ranked as the most established player in the burgeoning constellation of commercial rocket companies, having launched numerous cargo payloads and astronauts to the NASA space station.

Two rival operators, Virgin Galactic Holdings Inc and Blue Origin, have launched their own astrotourism services in recent months, with their respective founding executives, billionaires Richard Branson and founder Jeff Bezos, each of them. them.

These suborbital flights, lasting a few minutes, were short leaps from the three days of Inspiration4 in orbit.


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