WATCH: SpaceX's Inspiration4 crew return safely after 3 days in space

By Wesley Diphoko Time of article published Sep 19, 2021

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“Congratulations @Inspiration4x" tweeted Elon Musk after the successful return of the mission’s SpaceX-manufactured Crew Dragon Resilience. The craft spent three days in orbit at an altitude of about 575km with an all-civilian crew.

The Crew Dragon capsule carrying four private citizens plunged through Earth’s atmosphere Saturday night and splashed down off the east coast of Florida, closing out the company’s first all-civilian mission in space. The Inspiration4 mission’s crew — billionaire funder Jared Isaacman, geoscientist Sian Proctor, physician assistant Haley Arceneaux and data engineer Chris Sembroski — became the first space crew to orbit the Earth without any professionally-trained astronauts on board.

The crew’s journey back to Earth was uneventful. They went through an expected, seven-minute communications blackout with SpaceX’s mission control in California due to a sheath of plasma that forms around the capsule during its turbulent atmospheric re-entry. At this time, the exterior of the spacecraft reaches temperatures of up to 1900C, but the crew were kept safe by its protective heatshield, as well as their flight suits and reinforced air conditioning inside the capsule. Crew Dragon streaked across the skies above north-east South America and zoomed toward the Cape Canaveral coast.

An initial set of two parachutes slowed the capsule from about 560km/h to 160km/h. This first set was ditched less than a minute later, at an altitude of about 1800 feet (550 metres), when another set of four parachutes deployed to slow the craft down to about 24km/h on splashdown.

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