After three days in space, four SpaceX tourists have safely returned to Earth, completing the first orbital mission in history with no professional astronauts on board.
According to a video feed from SpaceX, the Dragon capsule, whose heat shield allowed it to survive the descent, was slowed down by four enormous parachutes before splashing into the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Florida at 7:06 p.m. (2306 GMT).
"That was a heck of a ride for us, and we're just getting started," billionaire skipper Jared Isaacman said shortly after landing. Isaacman financed the voyage to make space more accessible.
A SpaceX boat quickly collected the capsule before the hatch was opened, and the space travelers evacuated one by one, beaming and waving their arms in the air.
They were then going to the Kennedy Space Center, where their mission had started the day before.
The mission's stated purpose, dubbed Inspiration4, was to promote space democratization by demonstrating that the cosmos can be accessed by people who have not been hand-picked or trained for years.
"Congratulations @Inspiration4x !!!" says the author. Elon Musk, the founder of SpaceX, tweeted after the landing.
The four-space novices - Isaacman and three other Americans - spent three days orbiting Earth, traveling farther than the International Space Station (ISS), and circled the globe more than 15 times each day at an altitude of roughly 575 kilometers (357 miles).
The other three seats were provided to strangers by Isaacman, who paid SpaceX tens of millions of dollars: Hayley Arceneaux, a 29-year-old nurse; Sian Proctor, a 51-year-old academic; and Chris Sembroski, 42, a US Air Force veteran.
However, the precise cost of the mission has not been published by the 38-year-old founder of Shift4 Payments and a seasoned pilot.
In comparison to professional astronauts, the Inspiration4 crew bonded over six months of training.
The participants' vital signs, including heart rate, sleep, blood oxygen levels, and cognitive capacities, were tracked throughout the voyage to examine the impact of space on total beginners.
They also took in the view from the capsule's fresh new observation dome, spoke with actor Tom Cruise from the ship, ate pizza, and listened to music.
'Second Space Age'
At a press conference following the landing, mission director Todd Ericson declared, "Welcome to the second space age,"
"space travel becomes much more accessible to average men and women." after its completion.
There was only one minor difficulty with the capsule's toilet system during the journey, which was promptly resolved, according to Ericson, who did not provide any specifics.
"Best ride of my life!" After exiting the capsule, Proctor sent out a tweet.
St Jude's Children's Research Hospital, a leading facility in Tennessee, benefited greatly from the mission. Arceneaux was treated there as a child and continues to work there now.
The crew brought several items with them, including a ukulele, which Sembroski performed live from the ship on Friday, and which will now be auctioned off with the earnings going to the hospital.
Musk's firm has already carried humans to space and back three times, following the return of two NASA missions, one in August 2020 and the other in May of this year. Both were returning astronauts from the International Space Station.
The members of the Inspiration4 mission, unlike NASA astronauts, did not travel to the International Space Station but instead remained in orbit around the Earth.
The space adventure follows a summer that saw billionaires Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos battle it to reach the last frontier. Their suborbital missions, on the other hand, only provided a few minutes of zero gravity.
SpaceX is currently planning more space tourism flights. In fact, according to Benji Reed, SpaceX's director of human spaceflight programs, "the amount of people who are approaching us through our sales and marketing portals have actually increased significantly,"
The next expedition, with three business people on board, is scheduled for January 2022.