Space tourists return to Earth after three days

Ruimtetoeristen na drie dagen terug op aarde

The four civilians who were launched into space aboard SpaceX’s Falcon 9 launch vehicle Wednesday evening, returned to Earth Sunday night. Just after 1 a.m. Belgian time, their Dragon capsule landed in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Florida.

In all, the members of the “Inspiration4” expedition circled the Earth for three days. At a speed of about 30 thousand kilometers per hour, the spacecraft took about 90 minutes per orbit. The crew reached an altitude of more than 580 kilometers, which is higher than the International Space Station (ISS).

Inspiration4 is the first fully commercial manned spaceflight. The four passengers were ordinary individuals without a professional or institutional astronaut orbiting our planet for the first time. They were 38-year-old billionaire Jared Isaacman – a civilian pilot who also has experience in combat aircraft and served as mission commander – and 29-year-old civilian pilot and geology professor Sian Proctor. Arsenault — a medical assistant at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee — and 42-year-old data engineer Chris Sembrowski.

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During their trip — which will be the subject of a Netflix documentary — the quartet conducted some health experiments that SpaceX has paid for, among others. They also set up activities for the care of St. Jude’s Hospital. Talks with actor Tom Cruise and SpaceX founder Elon Musk were also on the agenda, as were the virtual ringing of the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange on Friday.

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Isaac, who funded the mission, is the third billionaire to go into space from the United States in a matter of months. In July, he was preceded by Briton Richard Branson (Virgin Galactic) and ten days later Amazon founder Jeff Bezos (Blue Origin). They made a short trip into space and only stayed there for a few minutes and at a much lower altitude.

After they landed by sea, SpaceX picked up the four space tourists, then flew them by helicopter to the Kennedy Space Center. “It’s been a great ride for us, and we’re just getting started,” Isaacman said shortly after landing.

SpaceX’s next full commercial flight is scheduled to begin in January 2022, when the US space company launches three businessmen into space.

Photo: AP

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