Four space tourists ended their trailblazing trip to orbit on Saturday with a splashdown in the Atlantic off the Florida coast.
Their 太空探索技术公司 capsule parachuted into the ocean just before sunset, not far from where their chartered flight began three days earlier.
“On behalf of SpaceX, welcome back to planet Earth,” a SpaceX mission controller said after splashdown. “Your mission has shown the world that space is for all of us.”
“Thanks so much, 太空探索技术公司,” commander of the mission Jared Isaacman said upon landing. “It was a heck of a ride for us … just getting started.”
The all-amateur crew was the first to circle the world without a professional astronaut.
The billionaire who paid undisclosed millions for the trip and his three guests wanted to show that ordinary people could blast into orbit by themselves, and SpaceX founder Elon Musk took them on as the company’s first rocket-riding tourists.
SpaceX’s fully automated Dragon capsule reached an unusually high altitude of 585km (363 英里) after Wednesday night’s liftoff. Surpassing the International Space Station by 160km, the passengers savoured views of Earth through a big bubble-shaped window added to the top of the capsule.
The four streaked back through the atmosphere early Saturday evening, the first space travellers to end their flight in the Atlantic since Apollo 9 在 1969. SpaceX’s two previous crew splashdowns – carrying astronauts for NASA – were in the Gulf of Mexico.
Within a few minutes, a pair of SpaceX boats pulled up alongside the bobbing capsule. When the hatch was opened on the recovery ship, health care worker Hayley Arceneaux was the first one out, flashing a big smile and thumbs up.
All appeared well and happy.
The four were due to have medical checks before going to Kennedy Space Center by helicopter for a reunion with their families.
这次, NASA was little more than an encouraging bystander, its only tie being the Kennedy Space Center launch pad once used for the Apollo moonshots and shuttle crews, but now leased by SpaceX.
The trip’s sponsor, Isaacman, 38, an entrepreneur and accomplished pilot, aimed to raise $200m for St Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Donating $100m himself, he held a lottery for one of the four seats. He also held a competition for clients of his Allentown, Pennsylvania payment-processing business, Shift4 Payments.
Joining him on the flight were Arceneaux, 29, a St Jude physician assistant who was treated at the Memphis, Tennessee hospital nearly two decades ago for bone cancer, and contest winners Chris Sembroski, 42, a data engineer in Everett, 华盛顿, and Sian Proctor, 51, a community college educator, scientist and artist from Tempe, 亚利桑那.
Strangers until March, they spent six months training and preparing for potential emergencies during the flight, dubbed Inspiration4. Most everything appeared to go well, leaving them time to chat with St Jude patients, conduct medical tests on themselves, ring the closing bell for the New York Stock Exchange, and do some drawing and ukulele playing.
Arceneaux, the youngest American in space and the first with a prosthesis, assured her patients: “I was a little girl going through cancer treatment just like a lot of you, and if I can do this, you can do this.”
They also took calls from Tom Cruise, interested in his own SpaceX flight to the space station for filming, and the rock band U2′s Bono.
Even their space menu wasn’t typical: cold pizza and sandwiches, but also pasta Bolognese and Mediterranean lamb. Before beginning descent, Sembroski was so calm that he was seen in the capsule watching the 1987 Mel Brooks’ film “Spaceballs” on his tablet.
Congratulations streamed in, including from the Association of Space Explorers to its four newest members.
Aside from trouble with a toilet fan and a bad temperature sensor in an engine, the flight went exceedingly well, 官员说. Some of the four passengers experienced motion sickness when they reached orbit – just as some astronauts do.
“It was a very clean mission from start to finish,” said Benji Reed, a SpaceX senior director.
几乎 600 people have reached space — a scorecard that began 60 years ago and is expected to soon skyrocket as space tourism heats up.
Reed anticipates as many as six private flights a year, sandwiched between astronaut launches for NASA. Four SpaceX flights are already booked carry paying customers to the space station, accompanied by former NASA astronauts.
The first is targeted for early next year with three businessmen paying $55m apiece. Russia also plans to take up an actor and film director for filming next month and a Japanese tycoon in December.
Customers interested in quick space trips are turning to Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin. The two rode their own rockets to the fringes of space in July to spur ticket sales; their flights lasted 10 到 15 分钟.