Private Astronauts Float Through Orbit With Video Calls, Cold Pizza, Earth Views

SpaceX’s crew of private astronauts has spent its first two days in space chatting with children, conducting research and taking in views of the planet hundreds of miles away.

On Saturday, the Elon Musk -led company plans to return members of the Inspiration4 mission to Earth, bringing back the Crew Dragon spacecraft that is carrying them in orbit in a splashdown landing off the coast of Florida. The ship is expected to land just after 7 p.m. ET Saturday, or roughly three days after take off, according to the company.

The mission represents the first time a crew of amateur astronauts has traveled to orbit on a private company’s spaceship.

“We’re giving all of our time right now to science, research and some ukulele playing, and trying to raise some good awareness for an important cause for us back on Earth,” Jared Isaacman, the entrepreneur who paid for the mission, said during a SpaceX live stream Friday afternoon.

The comments were the crew’s first public remarks since they lifted off Wednesday evening in the Crew Dragon vehicle stacked atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

At one point during the live stream their second day in orbit, Mr. Isaacman, chief executive of payments-processing company Shift4 Payments Inc., appeared to be perpendicular to a camera, floating.

Chris Sembroski, an Air Force veteran and aerospace-industry employee, played a ukulele for a moment, while Sian Proctor showed off a drawing she made. Crew member Hayley Arceneaux, a physician assistant, appeared upside down when the live stream began.

“Hayley is a champ at spinning,” Dr. Proctor said.

Those on board said they had been enjoying looking at Earth from a domed-cupola window, which SpaceX added to the vehicle in the place of a docking system that wasn’t needed because the vehicle isn’t linking to the International Space Station during the trip. The views, Ms. Arceneaux said, “are out of this world.”

The crew members discussed some other tidbits about private space travel. Mr. Sembroski confirmed there was coffee available. One of their first meals on board, according to SpaceX: cold pizza.

The song “You’re the Inspiration” by the band Chicago woke the crew up Friday, according to a tweet earlier from the team behind the mission.

Mr. Isaacman said the crew had been using a portable ultrasound device for various experiments. They also have taken blood samples and conducted cognitive tests. SpaceX, the Translational Research Institute for Space Health at the Baylor College of Medicine and Weill Cornell Medicine have been collecting environmental and medical data from the crew for research purposes.

Crew members spoke with patients at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, the recipient of charitable funds being raised by the flight, according to a video the institution posted online.

They also reached Tom Cruise. “You can be our wingman anytime,” the mission’s official Twitter account said about the chat with the actor. At the close of the trading Friday, the crew appeared on a screen at the New York Stock Exchange.

During their first day in orbit, the crew traveled around Earth nearly six times, conducting some scientific experiments and eating before heading to bed. Mr. Isaacman also placed two sports bets.

The flight has been drawing attention from National Aeronautics and Space Administration personnel, including Administrator Bill Nelson, who congratulated the crew and said on Twitter that NASA looks forward to a future when it is “one of many customers in the commercial space market.”

Investors have also been following the mission, the latest in a string of flights that have sent private civilians to space, stoking expectations about a space-tourism market. In July, Virgin Galactic Holdings Inc. and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin LLC completed trips with crew members on board to the edge of space.

Write to Micah Maidenberg at

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