A busy day in orbit for all-civilian SpaceX crew

▶ Watch Video: SpaceX’s billionaire blastoff makes history

The all-civilian Inspiration4 crew chatted with Tom Cruise from space, mission officials said Friday, sharing their experiences on the first privately-funded trip to orbit while enjoying “an incredible” first full day in weightlessness.

They also got a chance to take in spectacular views of Earth from their Crew Dragon capsule’s hemispheric cupola, beaming down video of the blue-and-white planet 365 miles below.

The mission was chartered by billionaire Jared Isaacman in part to raise up to $200 million for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis. Medical officer Hayley Arceneaux, a childhood cancer survivor treated at St. Jude and now a physician assistant at the hospital, showed off the view in a video chat with patients.

“To all the patients and families, we are so honored to bring you into our spacecraft, so glad that you joined us,” Arceneaux said. “I just want you all to know that we’re doing this for you, and we are thinking about you so much.

“I was a little girl going through cancer treatment, just like a lot of you,” she continued. “And if I can do this, you can do this. I’m so proud of each and every one of you, and can’t wait to tell you the stories when we get back to Earth.”

A segment of the video later was posted on St. Jude’s Twitter account, showing Arceneaux as she described the scene from the cupola, a transparent dome added to the Crew Dragon capsule by SpaceX in place of a space station docking mechanism.

“We are flying this huge window, the biggest window that’s ever been flown in space,” Arceneaux marveled. “And looking through the window, we can see the entire perimeter of the Earth, which is so beautiful! And I hope that you’re getting to see what we see.”

Isaacman, Arceneaux and crewmates Sian Proctor and Chris Sembroski blasted off Wednesday atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket that boosted them into a 365-mile-high orbit some 100 miles above the International Space Station — higher than anyone has flown since the final shuttle flight to the Hubble Space Telescope in 2009.

Since then, the crew has collected medical data on how their bodies have reacted to the absence of gravity, chatted with friends and family on Earth and enjoyed the view from their sky high perch.

If all goes well, the fully automated Crew Dragon capsule will fire its braking rockets Saturday, setting up splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean near Cape Canaveral just after 7 p.m. EDT to close out a three-day voyage.

Isaacman donated $100 million to St. Jude before Wednesday’s launch, half of a $200 million fund-raising target. During their Zoom chat with St. Jude patients, one child asked if they had seen any aliens and another wondered, “Are there cows on the moon?”

“For those on the edge of their seats, we can confirm that cows are not on the moon,” Isaacman’s Inspiration4 team tweeted Friday.

Unlike NASA missions, which are carried out with open space-to-ground communications throughout, the commercial Inspiration4 mission is a non-government operation carried out by SpaceX for a paying customer — Isaacman — with Twitter being the primary avenue for mission updates.

In an update posted just ahead of the crew’s wakeup Friday, the Inspiration4 team on Earth reported “Rook, Nova, Hanks, and Leo spoke to @TomCruise sharing their experience from space. Maverick, you can be our wingman anytime.”

The tweet referred to Isaacman (call sign Rook), Arceneaux (Nova), Sembroski (Hanks) and Proctor (Leo). “Maverick” was Cruise’s fighter pilot call sign in the movie “Top Gun.”

In another tweet from SpaceX, the company said the Inspiration4 crew members “had an incredible first day in space! They’ve completed more than 15 orbits around planet Earth since liftoff and made full use of the Dragon cupola.”

Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the moon, tweeted his congratulations, saying “the world is inspired by the recent entrepreneurial, exceptional, tireless efforts for the furtherance of Human SpaceFlight. I am with you in thoughts and spirit.”

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