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SpaceX's first all-civilian crew return to earth after three days in space

SpaceX's first civilian crew has successfully returned to earth after three days in space. 

The Inspiration4 crew Splashdowned in the Atlantic Ocean near Florida on Saturday night shortly after 7 pm, bringing an end to their historic three-day mission orbiting earth.     

The Dragon capsule descended towards earth on four chutes before gently landing in the water as the module floated on the surface of the Atlantic Ocean.  

 'Thanks so much SpaceX, it was a heck of a ride for us,' mission commander Jared Isaacman was heard saying during the splashdown livestream.

The Inspiration4 crew - including Jared Isaacman, Hayley Arceneaux, Sian Proctor and Chris Sembroski - launched into space shortly after 8pm EST on Wednesday (1am BST on Thursday) on board a modified Crew Dragon module from the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida. 

The crew has shared pictures of their mission on Twitter, showing Jared Isaacman, Hayley Arceneaux, Sian Proctor and Chris Sembroski on board the Crew Dragon module. 

Although this is not the first time civilians have travelled to space, Inspiration4 is the first mission manned solely by civilians. 

Four main chutes open as the Inspiration4 capsule descends back to earth after a three-day mission in space

The Inspiration4 capsule carrying four civilian crew members makes a safe return to earth as it lands in the Atlantic Ocean on Saturday

The Inspiration4 capsule carrying four civilian crew members splashes down in Florida on Saturday

The Inspiration4 crew shared new pictures on Twitter, showing (from left to right) Jared Isaacman, Hayley Arceneaux, Chris Sembroski and Sian Proctor on board the Crew Dragon module

'The crew of Inspiration4 had an incredible first day in space,' they wrote. 'They've completed more than 15 orbits around planet Earth since liftoff and made full use of the Dragon cupola.' Ms Acreneaux is pictured in the domed window, known as the cupola

The group, led by Jared Isaacman (pictured), who is also funding the trip, will spend three days orbiting the planet, before returning to Earth on Saturday

On board the Crew Dragon capsule, the crew will orbit Earth roughly 15 times a day during their three day trip. Pictured is Chris Sembroski

The crew began their journey at 4:07pm ET on Wednesday, when the four individuals emerged from Hangar X where they were met by a large crowd cheering them on.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk was also present to see the crew off and appeared to be just as excited as the team going to space.

The Inspiration team said their final goodbyes to friends and family and packed into two white Tesla Model X vehicles, which drove them to SpaceX's new suit-up room to get in their space gear.

The Inspiration4 crew, the first all-civilian crew to fly to space-pose while suited up as they prepared to make their historic trip to space 

From there they ventured to Launch Pad 39 where the massive Falcon 9 rocket stood, climbed to the top of the tower and headed into the capsule.

The crew, however, stopped outside the capsule hatch to sign their names by the SpaceX symbol on the white wall, signifying the first all-civilian mission. 

They were then strapped in by SpaceX staff, who are called 'SpaceX Nijas' due to their all black attire. 

Meet the Inspiration4 crew 

Jared Isaacman, 38 

Issacman grew up in New Jersey and started dabbling in computer technical support and repair when he was just 14 years old.

Two years later, he was offered a full time position and dropped out of high school to take the job - he later earned a GED.

In 2005, Issacman founded a retail payment processing company named United Bank Card, which was later renamed Harbortouch, a point-of-sale payment company based in Pennsylvania.

He was the founding CEO and retained that role in 2015 with the company having 'been profitable for over a decade. 

By 2020, the company had been renamed Shift4 Payments, Isaacman became the CEO, and the company was processing $200 billion in payments annually. 

Issacman will pilot the craft and serve as spacecraft commander.

Hayley Arceneaux, 29 

Arceneaux, who is from Tennessee, was the first winner of a seat aboard the craft, who will become the youngest American in space and the first to make the journey with a prosthesis.

At the age of 10, Arceneaux was treated for bone cancer and had surgery at St. Jude to replace her knee and get a titanium rod in her left thigh bone. 

She wants to show her young patients and other cancer survivors that 'the sky is not even the limit anymore.'

Sian Proctor, 51

Proctor was revealed as a winner this past March.

She is an entrepreneur, educator, trained pilot and active voice in the space exploration community.

She was selected as the top entrant of an independently judged online business competition that attracted approximately 200 entries and was conducted by the eCommerce platform Shift4Shop.

And an independent panel of judges chose her space art website dubbed Space2inspire. 

Proctor, who studied geology, applied three times to NASA's astronaut corps, coming close in 2009, and took part in simulated Mars missions in Hawaii. 

Chris Sembroski, 41 

The last seat was awarded to Sembroski, who donated and entered the lottery but was not picked in the random drawing earlier this month — his friend was.

His friend declined to fly for personal reasons and offered the spot to Sembroski, who worked as a Space Camp counsellor in college and volunteered for space advocacy groups.

'Just finding out that I'm going to space was an incredible, strange, surreal event,' he said in March.

Sembroski will serve as the Mission Specialist and will help manage payload, science experiments, communications to mission control and more.

The crew was all smiles inside the capsule, as they proudly wore the iconic white space suits that are customized to fit each of the individual's bodies.   

Isaacman, the commander of the mission, is funding the trip in a private deal made with SpaceX.

The other three civilians were selected via a competition launched in February.  

Jared Isaacman, the commander of the mission, is funding the trip in a private deal made with SpaceX

Isaacman is the CEO of Shift4 Payments, while Proctor is a community college educator in Arizona, Sembroski a former Air Force missileman from Washington and Arceneaux is a physician assistant at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Tennessee.  

Inspiration4 is designed primarily to raise awareness and support for the pediatric cancer center, which successfully treated Arceneaux for bone cancer when she was a child. 

The mission aimed to raise $200 million for the hospital - Isaacman donated $100 million of his own money to the goal. 

Musk cheered as he saw off the Inspiration 4 crew, the first all-civilian crew to be sent into orbit, before they headed to the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on Pad 39A

Pictured is the redesigned SpaceX Dragon Crew capsule, which now features a glass dome at the top for the crew to look out at space 

Crew Dragon will orbit Earth for three days, completing one orbit every 90 minutes along a customized flight path as it travels at more than 17,000 miles per hour.

Its progress will be carefully monitored at every step by SpaceX mission control. 

SpaceX says: 'Upon conclusion of the mission, Dragon will reenter Earth's atmosphere for a soft water landing off the coast of Florida.'    

Crew Dragon's 365lbs cargo capacity has been allocated for both crew essentials as well as scientific equipment dedicated to micro-gravity research and experimentation. 

'While we are up there we are going to bring payloads and do experiments,' Isaacman said.

'We offered to take payloads from St. Jude's and other places because the wait list is extremely long.'

Jared Isaacman, from left to right, Hayley Arceneaux, Sian Proctor and Chris Sembroski form the Inspiration4 crew 

Following the announcement of Inspiration4 back in February, Musk told NBC News: 'Any mission where there's a crew onboard makes me nervous. The risk is not zero. 

'When you've got a brand new mode of transportation, you have to have pioneers. Things are expensive at first, and as you're able to increase the launch rate, increase the production rate, refine the technology, it becomes less expensive and accessible to more people.

'We'll all be with Jared on the journey and we'll be seeing it in real time. It's an important milestone on the road toward making access to space more affordable.'  

The SpaceX-led mission follows trips to space from two of Musk's billionaire rival's – Sir Richard Branson, who heads Virgin Galactic, and Jeff Bezos, founder of Blue Origin and Amazon. 

Bezos jetted off to space on July 20 aboard a New Shepard rocket with his brother Mark Bezos, as well as Dutch 18-year-old Oliver Daemen, who became the youngest person in space, and former NASA trainee Wally Funk, 82, who became the oldest.  

The Blue Origin founder reached 13 miles higher than billionaire rival Sir Richard Branson who flew to space during his own manned test flight on July 11. 


The March 2 test, the first launch of U.S. astronauts from U.S. soil in eight years, will inform the system design and operations (Artist's impression)

The capsule measures about 20 feet tall by 12 feet in diameter, and will carry up to 7 astronauts at a time. 

The Crew Dragon features an advanced emergency escape system (which was tested earlier this year) to swiftly carry astronauts to safety if something were to go wrong, experiencing about the same G-forces as a ride at Disneyland. 

It also has an Environmental Control and Life Support System (ECLSS) that provides a comfortable and safe environment for crew members. 

Crew Dragon's displays will provide real-time information on the state of the spacecraft's capabilities, showing everything from Dragon's position in space, to possible destinations, to the environment on board.  

Those CRS-2 Dragon missions will use 'propulsive' landings, where the capsule lands on a landing pad using its SuperDraco thrusters rather than splashing down in the ocean. 

 That will allow NASA faster access to the cargo returned by those spacecraft, and also build up experience for propulsive landings of crewed Dragon spacecraft.

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