Then, the capsule is expected to 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 bring the capsule out of the water and its passengers to safety.
During a Netflix documentary about the Inspiration4 mission, Musk described a capsule going through reentry as “like a blazing meteor coming in.”
“And so it’s hard not to get vaporized,” he added.
After that the Crew Dragon then has to deploy parachutes to slow its descent and make a safe splashdown in the ocean before rescue ships can whisk the four passengers back to dry land.
Despite the risks, a former NASA chief and career safety officials have said the Crew Dragon is likely the safest crewed vehicle ever flown.
Though they’re not the first tourists to travel to orbit, their mission, called Inspiration4, is notable because it did not involve a stay at the International Space Station under the tutlage of professional astronauts, as previous missions involving space tourists have. Rather, the four spaceflight novices have spent the past two days free-flying aboard their 13-foot-wide capsule on their own at about a 350 mile altitude — 100 miles higher than where the ISS is, and higher than any human has flown in decades.
And though the crew spent about six months training and getting to know each other, they did not have to undergo the strenuous NASA screening processes or physical and psychological evaluations that most professional astronauts do.
So far, however, there has been no indication that anything has gone awry with the crew or their vehicle.
The Inspiration4 Twitter account also shared footage of Arceneaux speaking to her St. Jude patients, and Isaacman rang the closing bell of the New York Stock Exchange via 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 visuals from inside the crew capsule were shared Friday afternoon, nearly two days after they launched.
SpaceX, as has been standard for the company for more than a year, did not respond to inquiries from reporters.
During previous SpaceX Crew Dragon missions — all of which have been flown for NASA and carried professional astronauts to the International Space Station -— the public has had more insight. The space agency and its dozens of communications personnel have worked alongside SpaceX to share practically every moment of the journey from launch until the astronauts dock with 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 were feeling while in orbit. Even though development of the Crew Dragon spacecraft was largely funded by taxpayers and SpaceX rents NASA facilities to support all its missions, Inspiration4 is considered a private, commercial mission. That means the company and the passengers have few transparency requirements. The public may not even hear from the tourists after they splash down Saturday evening.
But favorable reviews of their experience could be crucial. SpaceX hopes that this mission will be the first of many like it, building up a new line of business for the company in which it uses Crew Dragon to fly commercial missions with tourists or private researchers rather than just professional astronauts.
SpaceX already has contracts for five other private missions, as well as at least four additional NASA-contracted missions.
SpaceX capsule to return from orbit, capping off first tourism mission