Splashdown: Watch first all-civilian crew complete SpaceX mission, return to Earth

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — The first all-civilian crew to visit space splashed down safely in the Atlantic Ocean off the Florida coast Saturday, concluding a three-day mission aboard SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule.

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“Thanks so much SpaceX, that was a heck of a ride for us and we’re just getting started!” Inspiration4 commander Jared Isaacman said after the quartet’s triumphant return.

Meanwhile, SpaceX founder, CEO and Chief Engineer Elon Musk tweeted his congratulations to the crew shortly after splashdown.

The private mission, financed by billionaire entrepreneur Isaacman, orbited the Earth at an altitude of about 367 miles and circled the planet at a rate of roughly 15 orbits per day, CNBC reported.

Surpassing the International Space Station by 100 miles, the first U.S. space tourists savored views of Earth through a big bubble-shaped window added to the top of the capsule. The all-amateur crew was the first to circle the world without a professional astronaut.

Isaacman, who used the Inspiration4 mission to raise funds for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, was joined on the flight by fellow civilian crew members, Sian Proctor, medical officer Hayley Arceneaux and mission specialist Chris Sembroski. Isaacman donated $100 million personally, and the mission’s website indicated that an additional $53.8 million in donations were committed as of Saturday night, CNBC reported.

Isaacman, 38, held a lottery for one of the four seats aboard the flight and awarded another seat as the grand prize in a competition for clients of his Allentown, Pennsylvania, payment-processing business, Shift4 Payments. Joining him on the flight were 29-year-old Arceneaux, a St. Jude physician assistant who was treated at the Memphis, Tennessee, hospital nearly two decades ago for bone cancer, and contest winners 42-year-old Sembroski, a data engineer in Everett, Washington, and 51-year-old Proctor, a community college educator, scientist and artist from Tempe, Arizona.

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According to The Associated Press, four SpaceX flights are already booked to carry paying customers to the ISS, accompanied by former NASA astronauts. The first is targeted for early 2022, with three businessmen paying $55 million each for the experience. Meanwhile, Russia plans to take up an actor and film director for filming next month and a Japanese tycoon in December.

- The Associated Press contributed to this report.