Cape Canaveral, Florida – three days after space flight, SpaceX’s first national crew returned to earth and splashed down off the coast of Florida, ending a historic mission.
“This is an amazing journey for everyone,” Kip O’Keefe, Mission Director of inspiration 4, said at a splashed press conference. “We can’t ask for more successful tasks.”
At 7:06 p.m. EDT on September 18 (2306 GMT), SpaceX crew “dragon toughness” landed gently on the Atlantic Ocean near the coast of Cape Canaveral, Florida, marking the end of inspiration 4 mission. It was a private space flight that put four civilians into orbit last week.
The flight was part of a large-scale fund-raising campaign at St. Jude’s children’s research hospital. Billionaire Jared Isaacman and four shift4 payers bought the plane from SpaceX to raise $200 million for child cancer research.
“Inspiration 4, on behalf of SpaceX, welcome to earth,” Chris Yang, director of space operations of SpaceX mission control center, told the crew. “Your mission shows the world that space serves all of us and that everyone can have an extraordinary impact on the world around us. Thank you for sharing your leadership, hope, generosity and prosperity, and congratulations.”
“Thank you very much, SpaceX. It was a very pleasant trip for us,” Isaacman replied. “We’re just getting started.”
Isaacman attended the event with Hayley Arceneaux, a doctor assistant and child cancer survivor; Chris senbrosky, Data Engineer; And Sian Proctor, a geoscientist and professor at Community University. The four citizens form the inspiration 4 crew. Their flight marks the first time that a spacecraft has sent humans into space without any professional astronauts.
Benji reed, senior director of SpaceX manned space program, said at the press conference: “this is an awesome mission and an awesome experience. We are very grateful to all the crew – Jared and Chris, Xi’an and Haley – for their participation and making it a real reality.”.
“On the whole, the mission was great – the weather was good from beginning to end – it was a great experience for everyone on the ground, and dragon’s performance was excellent,” he added.
On orbit, astronauts conducted a series of medical experiments to collect samples and data to help researchers better understand the impact of microgravity on the human body.
According to SpaceX data, during the flight, the crew reached an altitude of 367 miles (590 kilometers) from the earth, higher than the international space station and the Hubble Space Telescope. This is expected to provide more insights into space radiation and its impact on humans.
“It’s really interesting to observe how the fluid moves in this microgravity environment,” aseno told the audience in a flight broadcast on Friday (September 17). “This is what scientists are studying, so we are happy to contribute to it.”
“We also collected several swabs from different parts of the body to assess the microbiome and the changes in space over the past three days,” she added. “I also provided a large number of samples, blood samples and cognitive tests for the research team.”
They also enjoyed the magnificent scenery of the planet below. Their spacecraft, dragon recovery, was specially modified after its last space flight. SpaceX engineers removed the docking adapter of the spacecraft and installed a huge dome window called the dome window in its position.
“We’ve been on this dome for so long that we can see the whole periphery of the earth. It’s an incredible perspective,” aseno said on the radio. “I have to say that these views are impossible.”
Proctor and Arceneaux proved that they could accommodate multiple crew members at one time and said that the crew were observing the earth as much as possible. Proctor showed a painting she created in space, which depicts the Dragon spacecraft they launched into space and painted it with metal marks.
Before the launch, she was particularly excited to see how her pigments and markers worked under microgravity, because the behavior of liquids in space was very different from that on earth.
Sembrosky further elaborated on this. He said: “because the purpose of this mission is to open the final boundary to more people, especially those who are not professional astronauts, astronauts are bringing more humanistic knowledge into space.”
This means not only art projects, but also music. Sembrosky brought a four stringed piano customized for the mission. He said he enjoyed practicing playing instruments under microgravity and even played some chords on the radio.
“One of the most interesting parts of space is microgravity,” Arceneaux said, adding that the lack of gravity “enables us to do all kinds of cold flips and rotations.”
Her crew said she often flipped in microgravity. They also took the time to actually demonstrate the zero gravity indicator selected for the mission. Usually, some kind of stuffed animal selected by the crew is used to show when the crew arrives in space.
For this special mission, the staff selected a plush dog to represent the therapeutic dog hired by St. Jude.
“So whenever we get into space, this is the first thing we have to throw away to show that we are indeed in a zero gravity environment,” Arceneaux said, letting it float in the cabin. “This little guy is very cute. He represents St. Jude’s treatment dog.”
She went on to say that St. Jude has two different golden retrievers. When the children are afraid, they can sit with the children, and even let them know that it is not terrible through MRI or cat scanner before the children.
“So we want to take these really cute dogs into space,” aseno said. “But the really cool thing is that these dogs are on sale, and all the money for our zero gravity indicator sales will go to St. Jude.”
The crew can also call St. Jude’s patients from space, chat with the children and answer their questions.
Now that the crew has returned to earth, they will be examined by medical personnel and fly by helicopter to NASA’s space shuttle landing facility. Their dragon capsule will pass through the port of Canaveral to the SpaceX facility, where it will be unloaded, inspected and possibly ready to fly again. Although we still don’t know what its next task is.
SpaceX plans to make another civilian flight sometime early next year. The mission is a cooperative project with axiom space company, which will transport four citizens, including a former NASA astronaut, to the international space station.