The quartet of newly minted citizen astronauts comprising the SpaceX Inspiration4 mission safely splashed down in the Atlantic off Florida's coast on Saturday, completing a three-day flight of the first all-civilian crew ever sent into Earth orbit.
The successful launch and return of the mission, the latest in a recent string of rocket-powered expeditions bankrolled by their billionaire passengers, marked another milestone in the fledgling industry of commercial astro-tourism, 60 years after the dawn of human spaceflight.
“Welcome to the second space age,” Todd “Leif” Ericson, mission director for the Inspiration4 venture, told reporters on a conference call after the crew returned.
SpaceX, the private rocketry company founded by Tesla Inc electric automaker CEO Elon Musk, supplied the spacecraft, launched it, controlled its flight and handled the splashdown recovery operation.
The three-day mission ended as the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule, dubbed Resilience, parachuted into calm seas. Sian Proctor, the pilot of the world’s first all-civilian space mission, tweeted thanking SpaceX for the “Best ride of my life!”
Each of the four stood on the deck for a few moments in front of the capsule to wave and give thumbs-up before being escorted to a medical station on board for checkups at sea. Afterward they were flown by helicopter back to Cape Canaveral for reunions with loved ones.
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