The four private astronauts of SpaceX’s Inspiration4 crew have shared their first snapshots from their historic first-ever all-civilian space trip and they look thrilled.
The images, released in the wee hours of Friday (Sept. 17) via the Inspiration4 mission’s Twitter account, appear to be video stills that show the four private astronauts smiling inside the capsule while enjoying stunning views from a huge new dome window that SpaceX fitted to their Crew Dragon capsule in place of the usual docking port required for space station-bound spacecraft. The images are the first glimpses of the Inspiration4 crew’s life in space since their launch into orbit Wednesday night (Sept. 15).
“The crew of Inspiration4 had an incredible first day in space!” Inspiration4 representatives wrote on Twitter. “They’ve completed more than 15 orbits around planet Earth since liftoff and made full use of the Dragon cupola.”
Unlike a traditional spaceflight by NASA, which typically includes constant video coverage from inside the spacecraft, SpaceX’s Inspiration4 flight is a private affair financed by its commander, billionaire tech entrepreneur Jared Isaacman. Its crew can decide how much (or how little) to share of their experience in space as it happens. The Inspiration4 mission is also working with Time Studios and Netflix on a documentary about the flight, the final episode of which will air later this month and likely feature footage from the flight.
The public had to wait for the first glimpse of the crew during their flight for more than a day after its launch on SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket. The long silence spurred some speculation on social media that the mission might have hit problems. On Thursday, SpaceX representatives shared a series of Twitter updates stating the crew was healthy and had spent the rest of their launch day performing experiments and having a few meals. SpaceX’s CEO Elon Musk also made an attempt to calm down the speculations nine hours before the images were eventually released.
“Just spoke with @inspiration4x crew. All is well,” Musk tweeted Thursday afternoon.
The Inspiration4 team has since shared more details of what the crew have been up to during the first day of their planned three-day trip.
In addition to gazing outside Crew Dragon’s domed cupola, the crew also spoke to cancer patients treated at the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, which is the main benefactor of multiple fund-raising activities related to the mission.
“We can confirm that St. Jude patients got to speak with the crew live this afternoon, asking the questions we all want to know like ‘are there cows on the moon?'” the hospital said on Twitter on Thursday evening.
The mission’s medical officer Hayley Arcenaux works as a physician assistant at St. Jude. She is also a former patient and cancer survivor, and now also the first person with a prosthetic body part to fly to space. At 29 years of age, she is also the youngest American space traveller to date.
Isaacman and Arcenaux are accompanied on the historic space trip by geoscientist and science communicator Sian Proctor, and data engineer Chris Sembroski. Proctor, who was selected for the flight in a competition run by Isaacsman’s company Shift4 Payments, serves as the mission pilot. Life-long space geek and aerospace engineer Sembroski, who got his ticket for the flight from a friend who won it in a raffle (which Sembroski too entered, but didn’t win) is the mission specialist.
During their first day in space, the crew members reportedly listened to “ultimate space jams” shared via the music streaming service Spotify, according to the Inspiration4 Twitter account. Isaacman also placed the first ever sports bet from space, betting on the Philadelphia Eagles to win the Super Bowl.
The crew will perform scientific experiments during the remainder of their space trip but also perform for the public to raise more funds for St. Jude. Sembroski carries with him a ukulele, which he will play and sing along during the flight.
On Thursday, SpaceX shared a stunning video view of Earth from the cupola, obtained about two hours after the Dragon Crew capsule reached its target orbit. At 363 miles (585 km) above Earth, this is the farthest Dragon has ever ventured (the International Space Station, the capsule’s usual destination, orbits at the altitude of 250 miles (400 km)). In fact, no human space mission since the final Hubble Space Telescope servicing mission in 2009 travelled this far from our planet.
The capsule with the crew aboard is expected to splash down on Saturday (Sept.18) at one of several landing sites off the Florida coast in the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico . The crew travels on Dragon Crew Resilience, the same spacecraft used for the Crew-1 mission to the International Space Station in November 2020.
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