SpaceX Inspiration4 astronauts return to Earth with historic splashdown off Florida coast

CAPE CANAVERAL (Fla.) SpaceX's first all-civilian crew returned home tonight after three days in orbit. They landed off the Florida coast to complete a historic mission.
Tonight, September 18, at 7:06 PM EDT (2306 GMT), the SpaceX Crew Dragon Resilience gently touched down in the Atlantic Ocean off Cape Canaveral. This marked the end of the Inspiration4 mission (a private spaceflight that sent four civilians into orbit earlier this year).

This flight was part of a huge fundraising effort for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. Jared Isaacman, a billionaire who is also four of Shift4 payments, bought the SpaceX flight to raise $200 million for childhood-cancer research.

After their successful splashdown, Kris Young, Space Operations Director at SpaceX mission command, said to the crew, "Inspiration4, on behalf SpaceX, welcome aboard planet Earth." Your mission has demonstrated to the world that space can be for everyone and that ordinary people can have extraordinary impact on the world around them. We are grateful for your leadership, optimism, generosity, and abundance.

SpaceX, thank you so much. Isaacman responded, "It was an amazing ride for us." "We're just getting started."

Video: Splashdown SpaceX Inspiration4 crew returns to Earth

SpaceX's Inspiration4 private, all-civil orbital mission is live updated

Image 1 of 7 Crew Dragon Resilience splashes in the Atlantic Ocean off Florida's coast on September 18, 2021. (Image credit SpaceX) Image 2: The Crew Dragon Resilience splashes in the Atlantic Ocean off Florida's coast, Sept. 18, 2021. (Image credit SpaceX. Image 3 of 7. The Crew Dragon Resilience splashes in the Atlantic Ocean off Florida's coast on September 18, 2021. (Image credit SpaceX. Image 4 of 7. A view of Crew Dragon as it descends toward Earth. (Image credit SpaceX. Image 5 of 7 Inspiration4 mission expert Chris Sembroski watches "Spaceballs" while the crew prepares to land. (Image credit SpaceX. Image 6 of 7. (Image credit SpaceX. Image 7 of 7.) A view of the crew inside Crew Dragon Resilience, as it returns to Earth on Sept. 18, 2021. SpaceX Image Credit

Hayley Arceneaux is a physician's assistant who has survived childhood cancer and Chris Sembroski is a data engineer. Sian Proctor is a geoscientist and professor at a community college. Their flight marks the first time that a spacecraft has carried humans into space without professional astronauts.

The crew was in orbit and performed many medical experiments. They collected samples and data to help scientists better understand the effects of microgravity on the human body.

The crew reached an altitude of 367 miles (590 kilometers) above the earth during their flight. This was according to SpaceX, higher than the International Space Station or the Hubble Space Telescope. This will provide additional insight into the effects of space radiation on humans.

During an in-flight broadcast, Arceneaux said that "it's been really fascinating to see how fluid shifts avec this microgravity environment." "And that's something scientists are looking into, so we're glad to contribute."

She said that she has also taken swabs from different parts of her body in order to assess the microbiome and see how it changes over three days. "I have also given a lot of blood samples and cognitive tests for the research teams."

The crew also enjoyed spectacular views of the planet below. After its last spaceflight, Crew Dragon Resilience received an unusual modification to their spacecraft. SpaceX engineers removed the craft's docking adapter, and instead installed a huge dome window called a cupola.

Arceneaux stated during the broadcast that he and Arceneaux had spent so much time in the cupola that they could see the Earth's entire perimeter. This is an incredible perspective. "And I must say, the views here are amazing."

Proctor and Arceneaux showed that the cupola can accommodate multiple crew members at once. They also said that the crew spends as much time gazing at the Earth as they can. Proctor displayed one of her drawings from space. It depicts their Dragon spacecraft going into space. Proctor used metallic markers to draw it.

Before launch, she was particularly excited to see how her markers and paints worked in microgravity. Fluids behave differently in space than in Earth.

Chris Sembroski shows off the ukulele he brought on the Inspiration4 mission. Sian Proctor displays her space art in the background. Image credit: SpaceX

Sembroski elaborated on that statement, saying, "Because this mission aims to open the final frontier for more people, particularly people who aren't professional astronauts. That is why the crew is bringing in more of the humanities into space."

This includes not only art projects but also music. Sembroski had a custom-made ukulele that he brought with him to the mission. Sembroski said that he enjoyed practicing the instrument in microgravity, and even performed a few chords during the broadcast.

Arceneaux said that microgravity is "one of the most exciting parts of being out there," adding that it "has allowed us to do all sorts of cool flips, spins, and turns."

According to her crewmates, she has been doing flips quite a bit in microgravity. The zero-g indicator, which was chosen for the mission, was also displayed by the crew. The crew usually uses a stuffed animal to indicate when they have reached space.

The crew chose a plush dog to represent the St. Jude therapy dogs for this mission.

After entering Earth orbit on Sept. 15, 20,21, "Jude", the zero-g indicator used by the Inspiration4 crew, floats at a end of a tether. SpaceX image credit

Arceneaux stated that this was the first thing she could toss out when we were going to space, to prove that we were really in zero gravity. "This cute little guy is St. Jude therapy dog.

She continued to mention that St. Jude has two golden retriever dogs, which can sit with children when they are scared. They even have the ability to go through the MRI or CAT scan machines before the kids to show them it's not scary.

Arceneaux stated, "So we wanted one of these really sweet canines to space," "But the best part is that these dogs are for sale and all proceeds from our zero-g indicators will go to St. Jude."

The crew was also able call St. Jude patients from space, talking with them and answering their questions.

Once the crew has returned to Earth, they will be examined by medical personnel and flown by helicopter to NASA's landing areas for the space shuttle. The Dragon capsule will travel via Port Canaveral to SpaceX's facilities, where it will be offloaded and inspected before being ready to fly again. We don't yet know the next mission of its Dragon capsule.

SpaceX plans to launch another civilian flight in the early part of next year. The mission, a partnership with Axiom Space, will transport a crew consisting of four citizens (including one former NASA astronaut), on a journey towards the International Space Station.

Follow Amy Thompson @astrogingersnap. Follow us on Facebook or Twitter @Spacedotcom

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