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Inspiration4 Crew Returns To Earth, Splashing Down In The Atlantic Off Florida Coast

Elon Musk's SpaceX set another aerospace first by launching Inspiration4, the first all-civilian mission to orbit, into space Wednesday. And after circling the planet some 45 times over three days, the crew has returned to Earth.

The Dragon spacecraft and its crew splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean off the Florida coast at 7:07 p.m. ET Saturday. SpaceX said the spacecraft earlier conducted two burns to drop its altitude from about 350 miles above the Earth's surface to about 226 miles.

At approximately 7:04 p.m., Dragon deployed its parachute system, decelerating from 17,500 mph and safely descended to Earth before splashing down.

Jared Isaacman, a pilot and aeronautical businessman, is the commander of the Inspiration4 team. Isaacman paid SpaceX for the private mission and donated three seats to the public. The others aboard were Hayley Arceneaux, a physician assistant at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital; Chris Sembroski, an aerospace data engineer; and Sian Proctor, a pilot and geoscientist.

Inspiration4's mission was to study the human body in space and to raise $200 million for children with cancer and other life-threatening diseases through St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.

The Dragon spacecraft, the first private spacecraft to take humans to the International Space Station, has completed 27 launches, including 10 reflown missions and 25 visits to the space station, SpaceX said. It is capable of carrying seven passengers and "significant amounts of cargo" to space and back.

To aid the fundraising efforts, the Inspiration4 brought aboard a slew of unique items that will later be auctioned off. One of which is a never-before released song by the band Kings of Leon on a minted non-fungible token that was to be played in orbit. Also aboard the craft, 66 pounds of hops, which will later be brewed into beer by Samuel Adams.

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Dustin Jones is a reporter for NPR's digital news desk. He mainly covers breaking news, but enjoys working on long-form narrative pieces.