Our planet looks pretty nice from 364 miles (585 kilometers) up. This window is going to get quite a workout over the next few days.
SpaceX’s Inspiration4 became the first-ever all-private mission to reach Earth orbit Wednesday night (Sept. 15), riding a Falcon 9 rocket into the final frontier.
Inspiration4’s Crew Dragon capsule, a vehicle called Resilience, soon settled into a circular orbit 364 miles (585 kilometers) above our planet. That’s higher than any Crew Dragon has ever gone, and about 115 miles (185 km) above the path taken by the International Space Station.
The view from up there is incredible, as SpaceX showed us early Thursday morning (Sept. 16). The company posted on Twitter a video snippet from one of Resilience’s cameras that captures our gorgeous blue planet looming behind the cupola, a domed window that SpaceX installed on the capsule’s nose for Inspiration4. (The cupola replaced a docking port, which Resilience won’t need on this mission, a three-day solo jaunt around Earth.)
The cupola allows Inspiration4’s crewmembers to get a 360-degree view of their exotic surroundings. It’s a safe bet that the spaceflyers will put a lot of nose-smudges on that glass, especially since the cupola apparently sits right above Resilience’s toilet.
As its name suggests, Inspiration4 is carrying a crew of four: Jared Isaacman, a tech billionaire who booked and paid for the mission; physician assistant Hayley Arceneaux; Sian Proctor, a geoscientist and science communicator; and data engineer Chris Sembroski.
The quartet is blazing a new trail for private spaceflight and doing some philanthropic work in the process. Inspiration4 aims to raise $200 million for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis. Arceneaux works at the hospital and was treated there for cancer as a child.
Inspiration4 is scheduled to end with an ocean splashdown on Saturday (Sept. 18). That will be the second Earth return in as many days, if all goes according to plan: China’s three-person Shenzhou 12 mission is expected to land early Friday (Sept. 17), wrapping up its three-month orbital mission.