Elon Musk surprised his first all-private crew of space tourists with a $50m donations to the children’s charity St Jude after their groundbreaking flight to orbit ended on Saturday night.
Soon after their arrival from the Atlantic Ocean off the Florida coast, the billionaire SpaceX founder tweeted that he was donating the money to support the mission’s aim of generating $200m for the St Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Tennessee.
“Count me in for $50m,” Musk wrote, in response to a tweet from the four-person crew that they were: “Happy. Healthy. Home.” The crew requested public assistance in meeting their fundraising target.
Jared Isaacman, the sponsor and commander of Inspiration4 mission, paid undisclosed money for the mission to SpaceX and personally donated the first $100m to charity.
Isaacman, a 38-year-old entrepreneur and pilot, said he wanted to show that normal people could launch themselves into orbit.
Just before the sunset, their SpaceX rocket was landed into the ocean not far from where it had taken off three days earlier.
“On behalf of SpaceX, welcome back to planet Earth,” a mission controller said. “Your mission has shown the world that space is for all of us.”
“Thanks so much, SpaceX,” Isaacman said. “It was a heck of a ride for us … just getting started.”
For the first time, no professional astronauts flew with the all-unprofessional crew. After launch on Wednesday, the fully automated Dragon capsule reached an unexceptionally high altitude of 363 miles. The crew enjoyed views of Earth through a bubble-shaped window added in the capsule.
The four astronauts became the first since 1969’s Apollo 9 mission to land in the Atlantic Ocean. Medical checkup of the crew members was done before going to Kennedy Space Center by helicopter to meet their families.
“It was a very clean mission from start to finish,” said Benji Reed, a SpaceX senior director.
In the last 60 years, nearly 600 people have reached space and are expected to rise as space tourism becomes more popular. Four SpaceX flights are already booked for carrying paid customers to the space station with Nasa’s former astronauts.
First is expected in early next year with 4 businessmen paying $55m each. Russia is also planning to take an actor and film director for filming next month and a Japanese tycoon in December.