World’s first orbital crew splashes down
GS Paper - 3 (Space Technology)
The quartet of newly minted citizen astronauts comprising the SpaceX Inspiration4 mission safely splashed down in the Atlantic off Florida’s coast on 19 September 2021, completing a three-day flight of the first all-civilian crew ever launched into Earth orbit.
- SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule, dubbed Resilience, parachuted into calm seas, shortly before sunset, following an automated re-entry descent.
- First out was Hayely Arceneaux, 29, a physician assistant at St. Jude Children’s Research Center in Tennessee, a childhood bone cancer survivor herself who became the youngest person ever to reach Earth orbit on the Inspiration4 mission.
- SpaceX, the private rocketry company founded by Tesla Inc electric automaker CEO Elon Musk, supplied the spacecraft, launched it, flew it from the company’s suburban Los Angeles headquarters and handled the recovery operation.
- The Inspiration4 team blasted off on 15 September 2021 from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral atop one of SpaceX’s two-stage reusable Falcon 9 rockets.
- Within three hours the crew capsule had reached a cruising orbital altitude of just over 363 miles (585 km) – higher than the International Space Station or Hubble Space Telescope, and the farthest any human has flown from Earth since NASA’s Apollo moon program ended in 1972.
- It also marked the debut flight of Musk’s new space tourism business and a leap ahead of competitors.
- Two rival operators, Virgin Galactic Holdings Inc and Blue Origin, inaugurated their own space tourism services in recent months.
- Those suborbital flights, lasting a matter of minutes, were short hops compared with Inspiration4’s three days in orbit.