Four people successfully returned to Earth from a three-day extraterrestrial excursion aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule on Saturday evening. This was a historic first-ever flight to Earth’s orbit achieved by tourists (non-astronauts). The passengers included 38-year-old Isaacman, who personally financed and arranged the trip with SpaceX and its CEO, Elon Musk; Hayley Arceneaux, 29, a childhood cancer survivor and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital physician assistant; Sian Procotor, 51, a geologist and community college teacher with a PhD; and Chris Sembroski, a 42-year-old Lockheed Martin employee and lifelong space fan.
The Crew Dragon capsule, as per reports, which is designed not to allow temperatures to go past 85° in the cabin, used its heat shield to protect the crew against the intense heat and buildup of plasma as it plunged back toward the ocean.
Happy. Healthy. Home.
Welcome back to Earth, @ArceneauxHayley, @rookisaacman, @DrSianProctor, and @ChrisSembroski!#Inspiration4’s mission doesn’t end here — help us reach our $200 million fundraising goal for @StJude! https://t.co/NBUL2e3f4x pic.twitter.com/hhNQydWVJJ
— Inspiration4 (@inspiration4x) September 19, 2021
However, the flight was not totally flawless in technical terms. Benji Reed, SpaceX’s director of crew mission management, during a post-flight briefing said there were a couple of issues they worked on. “We did work something on the Waste Management System. But that was fine, and you know, the crew was happy and healthy.” Reed also said there was an issue with a temperature senor in one of the Draco thrusters used to move the capsule in outer space, but the company responded by taking the double redundant sensor offline. “And in fact, that Draco itself was redundant, it was never a risk.” Todd Ericson, Inspiration4 mission, said the issues were with the waste management system’s fan. “The SpaceX team responded by implementing a backup plan. My hat’s off to them.”
NASA officials applauded the Crew Dragon capsule as the safest crewed vehicle ever flown. This mission was called the Inspiration4 and stands out as it did not involve a stay at the International Space Station under the tutelage of professional astronauts. The four spaceflight novices spent the past three-days free-flying aboard the 13-foot-wide capsule on their own at about a 350 mile altitude – 100 miles higher than where the ISS is, and higher than any human has flown in decades.
The civilians on board had said they would conduct a bit of scientific research focused on how their bodies respond to being in space, take time to chat with their families, gaze out at large dome-shaped window called the cupola, and listen to music.