SpaceX's 1st tourists homeward bound after 3 days in orbit

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CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — A SpaceX capsule carrying four space tourists aimed for a splashdown off the Florida coast Saturday evening.

The first all-amateur flight to orbit Earth began three days ago with a launch from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.

The billionaire who paid for the flight, Jared Isaacman, took two contest winners with him, as well as a childhood cancer survivor who’s now a physician assistant at the hospital where she was treated: St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

They’re using the flight dubbed Inspiration4 to try to raise $200 million for St. Jude.

Strangers until March, they spent six months training and preparing for potential emergencies aboard the automated Dragon capsule. Once in orbit, they chatted with St. Jude patients, conducted medical tests on themselves, rang the closing bell for the New York Stock Exchange and dabbled in drawing and ukulele playing.

It will be the first Atlantic splashdown by a returning space crew in more than 50 years. SpaceX’s two previous crew splashdowns, with NASA astronauts, were in the Gulf of Mexico.

SpaceX envisions up to six private flights a year, sandwiched between astronaut launches for NASA to the International Space Station.

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The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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