SpaceX capsule will return from orbit, closing first tourist mission

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The four will re-enter Earth’s atmosphere aboard their SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule before it deploys parachutes and splashes off the coast of Florida on Saturday night. The re-entry process will involve the spacecraft – which has traveled at over 17,000 miles per hour over the past three days – plunging back into Earth’s thick atmosphere, a process that heats the exterior of the vehicle to the point of at 3,500 degrees Fahrenheit.

Next, the capsule should deploy two sets of parachutes in rapid succession to slow its descent before hitting the ocean. A fleet of SpaceX rescue ships will be nearby, ready to lift the capsule out of the water and its passengers to safety.

During a Netflix documentary on the Inspiration4 mission, Musk described a re-entering capsule as “like a blazing meteor coming in.”

“And so it’s hard not to vaporize,” he added.

After that, the Crew Dragon must then deploy parachutes to slow its descent and make a safe water landing in the ocean before the rescue ships can bring the four passengers back to dry land.

Despite the risks, a former NASA chief and career security officials have said the Crew Dragon is possibly the safest crewed vehicle ever flown.

Passengers include 38-year-old billionaire Jared Isaacman, who personally funded and organized the trip with SpaceX and its CEO, Elon Musk; Hayley Arceneaux, 29, childhood cancer survivor and medical assistant at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital; Sian Procotor, 51, geologist and community college teacher with a doctorate; and Chris Sembroski, a 42-year-old Lockheed Martin employee and longtime space fan who claimed his seat through an online raffle. Isaacman billed the mission as a fundraiser for St. Jude and has so far raised $ 154 million of his goal of $ 200 million.

Although they weren’t the first tourists to go to orbit, their mission, called Inspiration4, is remarkable because it did not involve a stay at the International Space Station under the tutelage of professional astronauts, as did previous missions involving space tourists. Instead, the four spaceflight novices have spent the last two days flying freely aboard their 13-foot-wide capsule at about 350 miles above sea level – 100 miles higher than where the ‘ISS, and higher than any human has flown in decades.

And while the crew spent about six months training and getting to know each other, they didn’t have to go through NASA’s arduous selection processes or the physical and psychological assessments that most professional astronauts do.

“They also need to prepare for worst-case scenarios, such as if someone in the crew becomes a danger to themselves or to others,” said Axios reporter Miriam Kramer, who followed the crew for. their training process, on the “How It Happened” podcast about it. mission. “There are zip ties and medication on board in case anyone needs to be sedated.”
SpaceX launches first all-tourist crew into orbit

So far, however, there is no indication that anything went wrong with the crew or their vehicle.

While in space, the civilians on board said they would conduct some scientific research focused on how their bodies react to space, take the time to chat with their families, look out a large shaped window. dome called “cupola”, and listen to music.

The Inspiration4 Twitter account also shared footage of Arceneaux speaking to his patients in St. Jude, and Isaacman rang the New York Stock Exchange closing bell via a satellite feed on Friday afternoon.

Other than that, very few updates were shared with the public while the crew was in orbit. The first live audio or visual recordings from inside the crew capsule were shared on Friday afternoon, nearly two days after launch.

SpaceX, as has been the standard for the company for more than a year, did not respond to inquiries from reporters.

How SpaceX and NASA overcame a bitter cultural clash to bring back US astronaut launches

During previous SpaceX Crew Dragon missions – all of which were carried out for NASA and transported professional astronauts to the International Space Station – the public had more insight. The space agency and its dozens of communications staff have worked alongside SpaceX to share virtually every moment of the journey from launch to docking astronauts to the International Space Station.

But this mission left the public largely in the dark when it came to questions about the crew’s schedule and how they felt during in orbit. Even though the development of the Crew Dragon spacecraft has been largely taxpayer funded, and SpaceX leases NASA facilities to support all of its missions, Inspiration4 is considered a private trade mission. This means that the company and the passengers have few transparency requirements. The public may not even hear from the tourists after their splash on Saturday night.

There could be several reasons why space tourists were shy about advertising during their trip. It is possible, for example, that the crew will not feel very well after reaching orbit for the first time. According to a NASA research paper, “many astronauts report symptoms of motion sickness right after arriving in space and again right after returning to Earth” and getting a good night’s sleep in orbit was “also a serious challenge for many crew members aboard shuttle missions “. It’s also possible that the four novice space explorers want to keep their privacy or just enjoy the experience without having to stop to talk about it.

But favorable reviews of their experience could be crucial. SpaceX is hoping this mission will be the first in a long series, creating a new line of business for the company in which it uses Crew Dragon to conduct trade missions with tourists or private researchers rather than mere professional astronauts.

SpaceX already has contracts for five other private missions, as well as at least four additional missions under contract with NASA.


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