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Watch the best bits from SpaceX’s historic all-civilian mission

SpaceX’s Inspiration4 crew has successfully completed the first all-civilian orbital space mission.

The three-day trip ended with a splashdown off the coast of Florida on Saturday, September 18.

The feat earns the crew a place in the history books and gives them a story to dine out on for the rest of their lives. It also clears the way for regular orbital missions using crews made up entirely of so-called “amateur astronauts.”

To mark the historic flight, we’ve pulled together videos and photos showing some of the best moments, including the launch, the stunning Earth views, and an impromptu ukulele performance by one of the crew.

Portraits of SpaceX's first all-civilian crew.
From left to right: Jared Isaacman, the Shift4 Payments founder who made the mission happen via a private deal with SpaceX; Hayley Arceneaux, who became the first bone cancer survivor to travel to space; Chris Sembroski, a data engineer and U.S. Air Force veteran; and geoscientist Dr. Sian Proctor became the first Black female Mission Pilot on a space mission and the fourth Black female to travel to space. SpaceX

The highly anticipated mission got underway on Wednesday, September 15, when the Inspiration4 crew launched aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral in Florida. Here we see the four Americans heading to the launchpad just a few hours before lift-off …

Inspiration4 | Launch

Once suited and booted, the crewmates settled into their seats inside the Crew Dragon spacecraft in preparation for launch …

Inspiration4 | Launch

Shortly after 8 p.m. ET, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket blasted off the launchpad, minutes later becoming the first orbital mission with a crew consisting entirely of private citizens rather than trained astronauts.

Liftoff of @Inspiration4X! Go Falcon 9! Go Dragon!

— SpaceX (@SpaceX) September 16, 2021

This beautiful long-exposure image shows the flight path of the Falcon 9 rocket as it carried the crew to space.

SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket carries the four Inspiration4 crewmates to space.
Inspiration4/John Kraus

A short while after launch, the first stage of the rocket separated and returned to Earth, landing upright on a droneship waiting just off the Florida coast.

Main engine cutoff and stage separation confirmed. Second stage engine burn underway

— SpaceX (@SpaceX) September 16, 2021

Twelve minutes after leaving Cape Canaveral, the Crew Dragon separated from the second stage, and a couple of burns later the spacecraft reached its orbit 357 miles (575 kilometers) above Earth — about 100 miles higher than the International Space Station.

Dragon has separated from Falcon 9’s second stage

— SpaceX (@SpaceX) September 16, 2021

A few hours after reaching orbit, at the end of a busy day, the crewmates took their first sleep in space. SpaceX tweeted: “The Inspiration4 crew is healthy, happy, and resting comfortably. Before the crew went to bed, they traveled 5.5 times around Earth, completed their first round of scientific research, and enjoyed a couple of meals.”

Speaking of meals, this was the kind of fare available to the Inspiration4 crew during the three-day mission. Pretty regular stuff, though we’re wondering how easy it was to eat bolognese in microgravity conditions …

A list of the food the crew enjoyed in space.

SpaceX engineers modified Inspiration4’s Crew Dragon to include the first all-glass cupola that guaranteed jaw-dropping views of Earth and beyond.

Below we see Jared Isaacman looking out of the Crew Dragon’s cupola …

Jared Isaacman looking out out of the Crew Dragon's cupola.

The Inspiration4 crew together with the space pup (yes, it’s a stuffed toy, not a real mutt) that acted as a zero-gravity indicator on the way up …

The Inspiration4 crew in space.

Chris Sembroski taking a photo from the Crew Dragon’s cupola …

Chris Sembroski taking a photo from the Crew Dragon's cupola.

The breathtaking video below shows an orbital sunset as viewed from the Crew Dragon …

View of an orbital sunset from Dragon's cupola

— SpaceX (@SpaceX) September 18, 2021

While orbiting Earth at about 4.7 miles a second (7.6 kilometers), Isaacman and his fellow passengers offered a mission update from inside the spacecraft.

Topics included the science experiments being conducted during the crew’s time in space, Proctor’s space art, and Arceneaux’s microgravity acrobatics, while Sembroski took a moment to give what must have been the first-ever musical performance on board a Crew Dragon spacecraft.

Inspiration4 | In-Flight Update with the Crew

The groundbreaking mission received global attention, with CBS Evening News, for one, reporting on a chat that the crewmates had with movie star Tom Cruise, and a special task they carried out at the New York Stock Exchange. They also had a Q&A session with children from St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, for which the mission is aiming to fundraise $200 million.

VIEW FROM ABOVE: The all-civilian crew of @SpaceX’s Inspiration4 rang the stock market’s closing bell, spoke with Tom Cruise and answered questions from kids at St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital while in orbit.

— CBS Evening News (@CBSEveningNews) September 18, 2021

At the end of their extraordinary experience, the crew strapped themselves into their seats for the journey home on Saturday.

The Crew Dragon capsule splashed down off the coast of Florida just after 7 p.m. In a tweet that included a photo of the spacecraft a split second from landing in the water, SpaceX said: “The Inspiration4 crew makes evening splashdown, completing [the] world’s first all-civilian orbital mission to space.”

The Crew Dragon a split second before splashdown.

And here’s a video of the splashdown …

Inspiration4 | Splashdown

Soon after hitting the water, the Crew Dragon was lifted onto a recovery vessel and brought back to land. SpaceX personnel were then able to open the hatch and welcome the crew home.

Crew of @Inspiration4x – first all-civilian human spaceflight to orbit – returns to Earth

— SpaceX (@SpaceX) September 18, 2021

For more content on the historic flight, consider checking out a Netflix docuseries that started streaming earlier this month. Countdown: Inspiration4 Mission to Space follows the crewmates on their intensive pre-flight training program and also includes footage from the mission itself. An extra show on September 30 will include more highlights and interviews with Jared, Hayley, Chris, and Sian following their safe return to Earth.

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Trevor Mogg
Contributing Editor
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