The first all-civilian crew of four astronauts includes, a raffle winner, a teacher and an internet entrepreneur and a cancer survivor that inaugurated a new era of privately financed space travel for non-professional astronauts. The dragon capsule housing the astronauts was launched on top of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket at Cape Carnaveral, Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Wed Sept 15th.
The four astronauts journey from Launch Complex 39A was to a maximum of 585 kilometres above Earth, culminating in a planned descend into the Atlantic Ocean. While admiring the view through a specially created cupola window built into the Dragon 9 spacecraft, some of the astronauts time was undertaken in research specially selected for the flight.
The SpaceX Dragon fired thrusters to begin its entry into the atmosphere, a journey in which the vehicle experienced temperatures as high as 3,500 degrees Fahrenheit (1,927 degrees Celsius). In its descent, the capsule operates with six parachutes including four main parachutes.
After splashdown, a SpaceX recovery team pulled the Dragon capsule onto a ship called the ‘Go Searcher’ with the crew still aboard, and were the first to welcome them back to Earth.
After medical checks, a helicopter then ferried them back to Florida to be reunited with their families.
“That was a heck of a ride for us, and we’re just getting started,” said Isaacman in a tweet.
The successful launch and landing was a proof-of-concept demonstration for Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp., greatly advancing the prospects of orbital space tourism.
Affluent adventurers are willing to pay the astronomical sums for the privilege of travelling into space as in happened in July when billionaires Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos flew brief sub-orbital flights into space aboard vehicles built by the space companies they founded.
“The amount of people who are approaching us through our sales and marketing portal has actually increased significantly. …There’s lots of interest, and its growing now, a lot,” said a spokesman from SpaceX.
The massive SpaceX media campaign with a Time magazine cover and Netflix documentary series, aimed to raise $200 million for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, with half of the total pledged by Isaacman.
SpaceX plans additional private flights, including one early next year for Axiom Space Inc., which is taking a retired NASA astronaut and three others to the International Space Station for several days. A trip to circle the moon with a Japanese entrepreneur and eight artists as early as 2023 is also planned.
NASA engineers plan to inspect the vehicle to understand how it withstood radiation, micro-meteor impacts and the large thermal load from re-entry. The 27-foot-tall (8.2 meter) Dragon can carry as many as seven passengers.
SpaceX has flown Dragon crew and cargo capsules to space more than two dozen times since debuting in 2010, with most of those configured for resupply missions to the International Space Station. Its last flight with NASA personnel was in May with four astronauts returning from the ISS.
…AND IN OTHER NEWS
The first crewed mission to China’s new space station is over.
A spacecraft carrying Nie Haisheng, Liu Boming and Tang Hongbo touched down safely in the Gobi Desert in Inner Mongolia today (Sept. 17) at 1:34 a.m. EDT (0534 GMT; 1:34 p.m. Beijing time) today, bringing the historic ‘Shenzhou 12’ mission to an end.
Shenzhou 12 launched on June 16 and arrived seven hours later at Tianhe (“Harmony of the Heavens”), the core module of China’s Earth-orbiting space station. The Shenzhou 12 crew, commanded by Nie, spent 90 days aboard Tianhe, staying aloft about three times longer than any previous Chinese crewed spaceflight.
While in orbit, the Shenzhou 12 astronauts snapped some photos of Earth and carried out a variety of scientific experiments. They also performed two spacewalks designed to help get the 54-foot-long (16.6 meters) Tianhe space station fully up and running and ready for future visits.