First all-amateur team of space travellers succesfully returns to Earth

First all-amateur team of space travellers succesfully returns to Earth
© Belga

The Dragon capsule returned to Earth on Saturday, splashing down in the Atlantic Ocean off Florida at 7:07 PM EST (just after 1:00 AM Belgian time), marking the successful completion of the first orbit of the Earth by a non-astronaut crew.

The SpaceX capsule resisted the giddy descent thanks to its heat shield, while four parachutes slowed it down before it landed in the water. The splashdown was relayed by billionaire Elon Musk’s company in a video clip shared on Twitter.

A SpaceX ship then picked up the capsule, after which the hatch opened and the four passengers climbed out. They were later flown back by helicopter to the Kennedy Space Centre, from where they had taken off on Wednesday evening in their capsule, transported by a Falcon 9 rocket.

“That was a hell of a ride for us,” the team’s leader, 38-year-old billionaire Jared Isaacman, radioed just after landing. “We’re just getting started.”

Isaacman, CEO of the e-commerce firm Shift4 Payments Inc., paid for the mission. His crew also included 51-year-old geo-scientist Sian Proctor, Hayley Arceneaux, a 29-year-old physician assistant and bone cancer survivor, and Chris Sembroski (42), an aerospace data engineer.

The aim of their mission, called Inspiration4, was to mark a turning point in the democratisation of space by proving that travelling to other planets can also be done by crews that have not gone through a rigorous selection and years of training.

The four amateurs, all Americans, orbited the Earth 15 times each day, up to an altitude of 590 kilometres – travelling beyond the International Space Station (ISS) – at a speed of about 28,000 km/hr.

This is the third time that SpaceX, which has become a big name in space travel in just a few years, has brought back crews to Earth. On the two previous occasions, done for NASA, six astronauts splashed down on board the same capsule after missions in the ISS.

The Brussels Times

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