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SpaceX is returning its Crew Dragon spacecraft from orbit on Saturday, with the capsule carrying the four members of the Inspiration4 mission back to Earth after three days in space.
Crew Dragon capsule Resilience is expected to splashdown off the coast of Cape Canaveral, Florida in the Atlantic Ocean at 7:06 p.m. ET.
The historic private mission — which includes commander Jared Isaacman, pilot Sian Proctor, medical officer Hayley Arceneaux and mission specialist Chris Sembroski — orbited the Earth at an altitude as high as 590 kilometers, which is above the International Space Station and the furthest humans have traveled above the surface in years. A free-flying spaceflight, the capsule did not dock with the ISS but instead circled the Earth independently at a rate of 15 orbits per day.
Inspiration4 shared photos from the crew’s time in orbit, giving a look at the expansive views from the spacecraft’s “cupola” window.
This is the third time SpaceX has returned astronauts from space, and the second time for this capsule – which previously flew the Crew-1 mission for NASA on a trip that returned in May. For Inspiration4’s return, Resilience is expected to close its nosecone at 6:35 p.m. ET before the intense reentry process through the atmosphere, and then deploy its parachutes just after 7 p.m. ET.
Both prior SpaceX astronaut missions splashed down in the Gulf of Mexico, making this the first that will return in the Atlantic Ocean.
SpaceX’s Crew Dragon Endeavour spacecraft splashes down in the Gulf of Mexico with NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley onboard on August 2, 2020.
The mission also comes with multiple other milestones for Elon Musk’s company, including: The first private SpaceX spaceflight, the first entirely nonprofessional crew to become astronauts, the first Black female spacecraft pilot, the youngest American astronaut to date, and the first person to fly in space with a prosthesis.
Inspiration4 was paid for by Isaacman for an undisclosed amount, with the main goal of the spaceflight to raise $200 million for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Isaacman, a billionaire entrepreneur, donated $100 million personally, with the mission having raised another $53.8 million in donations as of Saturday evening, according to the mission’s website.