After three days in space, the SpaceX space tourists returned to Earth, successfully completing the first orbital mission in history without a professional astronaut on board.
The Dragon capsule withstood the dizzying descent thanks to its heat shield and was then braked by four huge parachutes.
The landing occurred as planned, shortly after 6:00 p.m. Colombian time, and was recorded in a video released by the company.
“It has been an extraordinary journey for us, and it has only just begun”said the commander on board, billionaire Jared Isaacman, shortly after hitting the water.
A SpaceX ship immediately recovered the capsule, before his hatch opened and the space tourists, grinning widely and waving his arms in the air, come out one by one.
Next, were transferred to the Kennedy Space Center, from where he began his mission on Wednesday.
The stated objective of the mission, christened Inspiration4, was to mark a turning point in the democratization of space, proving that the Cosmos is also accessible to crews that have not been handpicked and trained for years.
“Congratulations, Inspiration4”SpaceX CEO Elon Musk wrote on Twitter.
The four rookies – Jared Isaacman, who chartered the mission, and three other Americans – spent three days orbiting the Earth, farther than the International Space Station (ISS), 590 km above the Earth’s surface.
Orbiting at about 28,000 km / h, they went around the world more than 15 times a day.
“Welcome to the second space age”
“Welcome to the second space age,” mission director Todd Ericson said at a press conference after landing.
Now, “Space travel becomes much more accessible to men and women on foot”added.
There was only a small problem during the flight, with the capsule toilet system, But a solution was quickly found, Ericson said, without elaborating.
“The best trip of my life!”Proctor tweeted after disembarking from the capsule.
The joys of weightlessness
Jared Isaacman, 38, is the head of a financial services company and an experienced pilot. Pricing has not been disclosed, but presumably he paid SpaceX tens of millions of dollars for this experience..
Isaacman offered three seats to strangers: Hayley Arceneaux, a 29-year-old medical assistant who became the youngest American to go into space; Sian Proctor, a 51-year-old geography teacher; and Chris Sembroski, 42, an alumnus of the United States Air Force.
Before the trip, all four trained for only about 6 months, while professional astronauts spend years preparing.
Once in orbit, collected data (such as their heart rate, sleep, blood oxygen saturation, cognitive abilities, etc.) that should help better understand the effect of the spatial environment on beginners.
They also enjoyed the view through a new observation dome installed on Dragon, were able to talk to actor Tom Cruise from the ship, ate pizza and reveled in weightlessness to the beat of the music.
The mission also serves as a huge fundraiser for St Jude Children’s Hospital (Memphis, Tennessee), where Hayley Arceneaux works after being treated there for cancer as a child.
Inside the ship were several items, including a ukulele that Chris Sembroski played live on Friday and which will be auctioned to benefit the hospital.
It is the third time that Elon Musk’s company, which has become a giant in the sector in just a few years, has returned human beings to Earth: In previous missions for NASA, six astronauts had already experienced a splashdown aboard the same spacecraft, after a stay on the ISS.
This mission ends a boreal summer marked by multi-millionaire flights to space. The first was Richard Branson, on July 11, who took off aboard the Virgin Galactic ship, and a few days later Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, with his company Blue Origin.
But these flights only offered a few minutes of weightlessness.
SpaceX plans other space tourism flights, including one starting in January 2022, which is supposed to transport three businessmen to the ISS.