Florida : SpaceX capsule with world's first-all civilian crew returns.

The quartet of newly minted citizen astronauts comprising of SpaceX Inspiration4 mission safely splashed down in the Atlantic off Florida's coast on Saturday completing a three-day flight of the first all civilian crew ever sent into earth orbit.

The successful launch and return of the mission, the latest in a recent string of rocket-powered expeditions bankrolled by their billionaire passengers, marked another milestone in the fledgling industry of commercial astro tourism, 60 years after the dawn of human spaceflight.

''Welcome to the second space age,'' Todd ''Leif'' Ericson, mission director for the Inspiration4 venture, told reporters on a conference call after the crew returned.

SpaceX, the private rocketry company founded by Tesla Inc electric automaker CEO Elon Musk, supplied the spacecraft, launched it, controlled its flight and handled the splashdown recovery operation.

The three-day mission ended as the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule, dubbed Resilience, parachuted into  calm seas around 7pm, shortly before sunset, following an automated reentry descent, as shown during a live SpaceX webcast on its YouTube channel.

Within the hour the four smiling crew members were seen emerging one by one from capsule's side hatch after the vehicle, visibly scorched on its exterior, was hoisted from the ocean to the deck of a Spacecraft recovery vessel.

Each of the four stood on the deck for a few moments in front of the capsule to wave and give thumbs -up before being escorted to a medical station on board for checkups at sea. Afterwards, they were flown by helicopters back to Cape Canaveral for reunions with their loved ones.

The return from the orbit followed a plunge through Earth's atmosphere generating frictional heat that sent temperatures surrounding the outside of the capsule soaring to 1,900 degrees Celsius. [ Reuters ]


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