Four SpaceX space tourists set to return to Earth tonight

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The Inspiration4 crew of Chris Sembroski, Sian Proctor, Jared Isaacman and Hayley Arceneaux sits while suited up on September 15. (Reuters)

WASHINGTON: The four private space tourists aboard a SpaceX capsule are due to return to Earth on Saturday night, touching down off the coast of Florida after three days of orbiting the planet.
The splash-down is scheduled for 7:06 pm local time (2306 GMT) in the Atlantic Ocean not too far from Cape Canaveral, from where the four Americans blasted off into space on Wednesday.
The event will be broadcast live by SpaceX, starting about an hour before the scheduled landing time.
The Dragon's heat shield will allow the capsule to withstand the descent, which will be slowed by four huge parachutes once the vessel is low enough in Earth's atmosphere.
After that, a SpaceX boat will come to retrieve it, and the passengers will disembark.
The Dragon capsule travelled farther than the International Space Station (ISS) at an orbit of about 575 km (357 miles) high. Its altitude was reduced to 365 km Friday evening.
This will be the third time that Elon Musk's company has taken humans to space and back, after the return of two NASA missions, one in August 2020 and another in May this year. Both were bringing astronauts back from a stay at the ISS.
Unlike NASA astronauts, the members of the Inspiration4 mission did not go to the ISS but remained in orbit around the Earth.
Billionaire Jared Isaacman financed the trip, paying SpaceX tens of millions of dollars. Isaacman, who led the mission, offered the other three seats to strangers: Hayley Arceneaux, a 29-year-old nurse; Sian Proctor, a 51-year-old professor; and Chris Sembroski, a 42-year-old US Air Force veteran.
During the flight, the crew members' vital signs were monitored to study the effects of the environment of space on complete novices.

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