Next, the capsule should deploy two sets of parachutes in rapid succession to slow its descent before hitting the ocean. A fleet of SpaceX rescue ships will be nearby, ready to lift the capsule out of the water and its passengers to safety.
During a Netflix documentary on the Inspiration4 mission, Musk described a re-entering capsule as “like a blazing meteor coming in.”
“And so it’s hard not to vaporize,” he added.
After that, the Crew Dragon must then deploy parachutes to slow their descent and make a safe landing in the ocean before the rescue ships can bring the four passengers back to dry land.
Despite the risks, a former NASA chief and career security officials have said the Crew Dragon is possibly the safest crewed vehicle ever flown.
Although they weren’t the first tourists to go into orbit, their mission, called Inspiration4, is remarkable because it did not involve a stay at the International Space Station under the tutelage of professional astronauts, as did previous missions involving space tourists. Instead, the four spaceflight novices have spent the last two days flying freely aboard their 13-foot-wide capsule at about 350 miles above sea level – 100 miles higher than where the ‘ISS, and higher than any human has flown in decades.
And while the crew spent about six months training and getting to know each other, they didn’t have to go through NASA’s arduous selection processes or the physical and psychological assessments that most professional astronauts do.
So far, however, there is no indication that anything went wrong with the crew or their vehicle.
The Inspiration4 Twitter account also shared footage of Arceneaux speaking to his patients in St. Jude, and Isaacman rang the New York Stock Exchange closing bell via a satellite feed on Friday afternoon.
Other than that, very few updates were shared with the public while the crew was in orbit. The first live audio or visual recordings from inside the crew capsule were shared on Friday afternoon, nearly two days after launch.
SpaceX, as has been the standard for the company for over a year, did not respond to inquiries from reporters.
During previous SpaceX Crew Dragon missions – all of which were carried out for NASA and transported professional astronauts to the International Space Station – the public has had more insight. The space agency and its dozens of communications staff worked alongside SpaceX to share virtually every moment of the journey from launch to astronaut docking to the International Space Station.
But this mission left the public largely in the dark when it came to questions about the crew’s schedule and how they felt during in orbit. Even though the development of the Crew Dragon spacecraft has been largely taxpayer funded, and SpaceX leases NASA’s facilities to support all of its missions, Inspiration4 is considered a private trade mission. This means that the company and the passengers have few transparency requirements. The public may not even hear from the tourists after their splash on Saturday night.
But favorable reviews of their experience could be crucial. SpaceX is hoping this mission will be the first in a long series, creating a new line of business for the company in which it uses Crew Dragon to conduct trade missions with tourists or private researchers rather than mere professional astronauts.
SpaceX already has contracts for five other private missions, as well as at least four additional missions under contract with NASA.