Science

SpaceX’s all-civilian Inspiration4 astronaut crew flew a meteorite back into space (briefly)

After spending 50,000 years on Earth, a meteorite had the opportunity to visit space again for nearly three days, during the all-civilian Inspiration4 mission in September.

Pilot Sian Proctor shared a video on Twitter on Friday (December 10) showing a fragment of the immense Canyon Diablo space rock that crashed into northern Arizona, forming Barringer Crater (better known as Meteor Crater).

“This is the first meteorite ever brought back to space,” Proctor said in the tweet, which featured the meteor as a backdrop with a 360-degree dome viewing window that replaced SpaceX’s traditional Crew Dragon docking mechanism. . (Since Inspiration4 did not visit the International Space Station, it did not need the mechanism.)

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A collaboration with Arizona State University allowed Proctor, a graduate of the institution, to fly the 4.4-ounce (127-gram) fragment into space. More than 30 metric tons of material have been recovered from the original impactor, according to ASU, which was between 98 and 164 feet (30 to 50 meters) in diameter.

Proctor thanked ASU Professor Meenakshi (Mini) Wadhwa, director of the university’s Earth and Space Exploration School, for making the collaboration possible. Wadhwa announced the meteorite’s brief space travel in a tweet in October, adding that the rock will be placed on permanent display in the school’s exploration gallery.

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It seems that the practice of retrieving rocks from space will be helpful to Wadhwa. She is also a program scientist for NASA’s Mars Sample Return mission that is expected to return part of the Red Planet to Earth in 2031. “In this role, Wadhwa will be responsible for the scientific integrity and overall scientific success of the program, “ASU officials said. she wrote when she was appointed to the position in April.

A primary goal of the Inspiration4 mission, in addition to bringing four civilians into space funded by billionaire participant Jared Isaacman, was to raise $ 200 million for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. The mission exceeded its fundraising goal on landing day.

As for Proctor, during the mission he emphasized his hope that the space will one day align with the acronym “JEDI,” which stands for fair, equitable, diverse and inclusive. Proctor, 51, was the first black female pilot in space and the oldest black astronaut.

Follow Elizabeth Howell on Twitter @howellspace. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

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