Four SpaceX tourists returned to Earth from a three-day extra-terrestrial excursion on Saturday evening, marking the end of the first-ever flight to Earth's orbit flown entirely by tourists or otherwise non-astronauts.
SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsule, dubbed Resilience, parachuted into calm seas around 7 pm EDT, shortly before sunset, following an automated re-entry descent, SpaceX showed during a live webcast on its YouTube channel.
"After orbiting Earth for three days, four astronauts of Inspiration4 flying aboard SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft safely splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean off coast Florida, US today, marking the completion of world's first all-civilian human spaceflight to orbit," said SpaceX as quoted by news agency ANI.
"Thanks so much SpaceX, it was a heck of a ride for us," billionaire and "Inspiration4" mission commander Jared Isaacman could be heard saying over the company's livestream.
In less than an hour after splashdown, SpaceX loaded the capsule onto its recovery ship and the crew exited, each giving waves and thumbs up after disembarking. The crew will then be helicoptered from the ship to NASA's Kennedy Space Center, a short flight away from the splashdown site, CNBC reported.
The tourists were shown watching movies and occasionally heard responding to SpaceX's mission control inside their fully autonomous spacecraft before it began the nail-biting process of re-entering the Earth's atmosphere, ANI report stated.
Elon Musk tweeted his congratulations to the crew shortly after splashdown.
Though they're not the first tourists to travel to orbit, their mission, called Inspiration4, was notable because it did not involve a stay at the International Space Station under the tutelage of professional astronauts, as previous missions involving space tourists have.
Rather, the four spaceflight novices have spent the past three days free-flying aboard their 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, reported CNN.
SpaceX hopes that this mission will be the first of many like it, building up a new line of business for the company in which it uses Crew Dragon to fly commercial missions with tourists or private researchers rather than just professional astronauts, reported CNN.
Last Updated Sep 19, 2021, 9:59 AM IST