PHOTOS: Army Chief Visits Sanwo-Olu, Reaffirms Commitment To Securing Nigeria

The COAS (left) during a visit to Governor Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State. Photo: Lagos Government.

 

The Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Lieutenant General Faruk Yahaya, has reaffirmed his resolve to ensure that the entire country is secure. 

Speaking during the visit to the Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu at the Lagos House in Marina on Monday, the Army Chief asked for partnership between states and security agencies.

He called for more hands to be on deck to ensure the security of lives and properties.

The COAS is restating his commitment to securing the country. Photo: Lagos Govt.

 

On his part, the Lagos governor commended the COAS for his strategic effort in tackling security challenges and appealed to him to ensure that the nation remains peaceful.

Below are more photos from the visit: 

Gunmen Kill Police Officer, Two Others In Anambra State

A file photo of a man carrying a gun.

 

Gunmen have killed a police officer and two civilians in an attack at the Ukaegbu Junction by Ezeiweka Road, Awada Obosi Layout in Idemili North Local Government Area of Anambra state. 

The incident, which happened on Sunday, also saw the attackers setting fire on the police patrol van before leaving the area.

Residents who spoke to Channels Television, said the incident took place around 8:30 am when officers from the Awada Divisional Police Station were conducting stop-and-search in the area considered as a flash point.

During the attack, the officer, a tricycle rider and a resident of the area lost their lives.

The Anambra State Police Public Relations Officer, Mr. Tochukwu Ikenga in a press release also confirmed the attack.

“The attackers drove in a Sienna vehicle… and started shooting at the patrol vehicle along Ukegbu Junction,” he said.

“Unfortunately, during the exchange of gunfire, one police inspector paid the supreme price.”

Tochukwu said that “in a bid to escape the police responding team, the hoodlums set the patrol vehicle ablaze.”

READ ALSO: One Killed As Gunmen Storm Taraba Community, Abduct Many

Other officers were wounded in the attack, he said, explaining that patrol and surveillance within the area and Onitsha have been intensified with a view to fish out and arrest the perpetrators.

No group has claimed responsibility for recent attacks, but police often blame the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), a proscribed separatist group demanding an independent state for the ethnic Igbo people.

IPOB denies its armed wing, Eastern Security Network, is involved in the attacks, but separatist agitation is on the rise in southeast and southwest Nigeria.

Dozens of police officers and other security personnel have been killed since the beginning of the year in targeted attacks in the southeast.

Prisons have also been raided with scores of inmates freed and weapons carted away.

IPOB’s leader Nnamdi Kanu has been in the Federal Government’s custody since he was arrested in June for treason charges.

 

 

Afghan Women Outraged Over Taliban Work Ban

File photo:  Taliban fighters pose as they stand guard in front of the provincial governor’s office in Herat on August 14, 2021. AFP

 

The Taliban’s effective ban on women working sank in on Monday, sparking rage over the dramatic loss of rights after millions of female teachers and girls were barred from secondary school education.

After pledging a softer version of their brutal and repressive regime of the 1990s, the Islamic fundamentalists are tightening their control of women’s freedoms one month after seizing power.

“I may as well be dead,” said one woman, who was sacked from her senior role at the ministry of foreign affairs.

“I was in charge of a whole department and there were many women working with me… now we have all lost our jobs,” she told AFP, insisting she not be identified for fear of reprisals.

The acting mayor of the capital Kabul has said any municipal jobs currently held by women would be filled by men.

That came after the education ministry ordered male teachers and students back to secondary school at the weekend, but made no mention of the country’s millions of women educators and girl pupils.

The Taliban on Friday also appeared to shut down the former government’s ministry of women’s affairs and replaced it with one that earned notoriety during their first stint in power for enforcing religious doctrine.

While the country’s new rulers have not issues a formal policy outright banning women from working, directives by individual officials have amounted to their exclusion from the workplace.

Many Afghan women fear they will never find meaningful employment.

READ ALSO[Exhausted And Abandoned] Why Afghanistan’s Army Collapsed

‘When will that be?’ 

File photo:  Taliban fighters stand guard along a roadside near the Zanbaq Square in Kabul on August 16, 2021, after a stunningly swift end to Afghanistan’s 20-year war, as thousands of people mobbed the city’s airport trying to flee the group’s feared hardline brand of Islamist rule. (Photo by Wakil Kohsar / AFP)

 

A new Taliban government announced two weeks ago had no women members.

Although still marginalised, Afghan women have fought for and gained basic rights in the past 20 years, becoming lawmakers, judges, pilots and police officers, though mostly limited to large cities.

Hundreds of thousands have entered the workforce — a necessity in some cases as many women were widowed or now support invalid husbands as a result of two decades of conflict.

But since returning to power on August 15, the Taliban have shown no inclination to honour those rights.

When pressed, Taliban officials say women have been told to stay at home for their own security but will be allowed to work once proper segregation can be implemented.

“When will that be?” a woman teacher said Monday.

“This happened last time. They kept saying they would allow us to return to work, but it never happened.”

During the Taliban’s first rule from 1996 to 2001, women were largely excluded from public life including being banned from leaving their homes unless accompanied by a male relative.

In Kabul on Friday, a sign for the ministry for the promotion of virtue and prevention of vice was erected at the building housing the old government’s ministry for women’s affairs building in the capital.

Vice ministry enforcers were notorious for punishing anyone deemed not to be following the Taliban’s strict interpretation of Islam.

On Sunday around a dozen women protested briefly outside the building, but dispersed when approached by Taliban officials.

No official from the new regime responded Monday to requests for comment.

In Herat, an education official insisted the issue of girls and women teachers returning to school was a question of time, not policy.

“It is not exactly clear when that will happen: tomorrow, next week, next month, we don’t know,” Shahabudin Saqib told AFP.

“It’s not my decision because we have had a big revolution in Afghanistan.”

The United Nations said it was “deeply worried” for the future of girls’ schooling in Afghanistan.

“It is critical that all girls, including older girls, are able to resume their education without any further delays,” the UN’s children’s agency UNICEF said.

AFP

Buhari Appoints NNPC Board Members, Approves Incorporation Of Agency 

A photo released by the State House on August 16, 2021 showing President Muhammadu Buhari signing the Petroleum Industry Bill into law. Bayo Omoboriowo/State House
A photo released by the State House on August 16, 2021 showing President Muhammadu Buhari signing the Petroleum Industry Bill into law. Bayo Omoboriowo/State House

 

President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the appointment of the Board and Management of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited with Senator Ifeanyi Ararume as Chairman.

This is even as he directed that the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited be incorporated, the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, announced via a statement on Sunday.

Adesina said the President appointed the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Mr Mele Kyari, as the Chief Executive Officer, adding that his principal acted in accordance with the Petroleum Industry Act 2021.

“This is in consonance with Section 53(1) of the Petroleum Industry Act 2021, which requires the Minister of Petroleum Resources to cause for the incorporation of the NNPC Limited within six months of commencement of the Act in consultation with the Minister of Finance on the nominal shares of the Company,” the statement explained.

READ ALSO: Buhari Departs Abuja To Attend 76th UN General Assembly

According to the presidential spokesman, NNPC GMD has been directed to take necessary steps to ensure that the incorporation of the oil company is consistent with the provisions of the PIA 2021.

Adesina explained that Senator Ifeanyi Ararume will serve as the Chairman of the Board, with Umar I. Ajiya being the Chief Financial Officer.

Apart from Kyari, other board members are; Dr Tajudeen Umar (North East), Mrs Lami O. Ahmed (North Central), Mallam Mohammed Lawal (North West), Senator Margaret Chuba Okadigbo (South East), Barrister Constance Harry Marshal (South South), and Chief Pius Akinyelure (South West).

Borrowing To Accumulate Debt For Next Generation Is Criminal – Obasanjo 

 

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has reacted to the Federal Government’s plan to source for fresh loans, saying borrowing to accumulate debt for the next generation is criminal.

Speaking to Channels Television on the sidelines of an event in South Africa, Obasanjo noted that if the existing debt is left unserviced or unpaid, it might become a problem for successive administrations.

While noting that borrowing is not a problem, the former Nigerian leader stated that what could be a problem would be what one is borrowing for and the plan or capacity to pay back.

“But if you are borrowing and accumulating debts for the next generation and the next generation after them, it is criminal. What are you borrowing for?” Obasanjo asked.

“If we are borrowing for recurrent expenditure, it is the height of folly. If we are borrowing for development that can pay for itself, that is understandable. Then the payment, how long will it take to pay itself?”

READ ALSO: No More Selling Dollars To People Who Buy Arms To Hurt Us – Weekly Quotes

The ex-president recalled that during his tenure in 1999, the country was spending $3.5 billion to service debts that kept on increasing.

“When I came into government as elected President, we were spending $3.5 billion to service debts. Even with that, our quantum of debts was not going down.”

Nigeria’s debts have continued to rise as the Federal Government seeks foreign loans to deliver key infrastructural projects.

Five days ago, President Muhammadu Buhari wrote to the National Assembly, seeking approval to borrow fresh sums of $4,054,476,863 and €710 million in an addendum to the 2018-2020 borrowing plan.

In the letter, the President explained that owing to “emerging needs”, there is a need to raise more funds for some “critical projects”, while seeking the parliament’s nod to also approve grant components of $125 million.

The request was in a letter read by Senate President Ahmad Lawan on the floor of the upper legislative chamber on Tuesday.

In July, the national assembly approved the sums of $8.3 billion and €490 million loans contained in the initial 2018-2020 borrowing plan.

PSG Beat Lyon But Messi Yet To Score First Goal In France


Paris Saint-Germain’s Argentinian forward Lionel Messi reacts after Lyon scored its opener during the French L1 football match between Paris-Saint Germain (PSG) and Olympique Lyonnais at The Parc des Princes Stadium in Paris on September 19, 2021. FRANCK FIFE / AFP

 

Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) needed an injury time goal to defeat Lyon 2-1 in a French Ligue 1 clash on Sunday, but Argentine superstar, Lionel Messi was not on the scoring sheet as the wait for his first goal in France continued.

Messi outshone his team-mates in PSG’s all-star attack for much of the game at the Parc des Princes but he had been taken off by the time substitute Icardi headed in a cross from the left to secure a win that looked unlikely for long spells.

The excellent Lucas Paqueta gave Lyon the lead in the 54th minute, before Neymar won and then converted from the spot midway through the second half of an absorbing contest at the Parc des Princes.

The fact it was a contest might come as a surprise to many who expect PSG to run away with the Ligue 1 title this season and perhaps even go all the way in the Champions League.

However, they were disappointing in drawing 1-1 with Club Brugge in Belgium in midweek in Messi’s first start for the club and they were given a run for their money by Peter Bosz’s Lyon in a meeting of the two most successful French sides this century.

Yet Icardi –- in many ways the forgotten man of the PSG attack –- allowed his side to make it six wins from six in Ligue 1 this season and they are now five points clear at the top from Marseille.

That gap will surely widen as the weeks go by. Lyon, for all their good intentions here, are already 10 points behind the leaders in ninth place.

Not Messi’s Night 

Three games into his Paris career Messi is still looking for his first goal, but he was unfortunate not to find the net in the first half when everything PSG did went through the six-time Ballon d’Or winner.

Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and Angel di Maria were all on the field too but –- unfortunately for such a superstar attack –- there is only one ball and it seemed to be drawn to Messi’s feet.

He was set up by Mbappe for a shot that was saved by Anthony Lopes in the 17th minute. Then he combined with Neymar for another effort that was turned behind, and soon after the Argentine cracked a free-kick from almost 30 metres off the junction of bar and post.

That was in contrast to a free-kick that Neymar blazed over at the start of the second half, and in the 54th minute Lyon got the goal they had occasionally been threatening as Karl Toko-Ekambi delivered a low ball from the left and Paqueta swept a first-time shot low into the net at Gianluigi Donnarumma’s near post.

Neymar Spot On


Paris Saint-Germain’s Brazilian forward Neymar (R) is congratulated by Paris Saint-Germain’s Argentinian forward Lionel Messi after scoring on a penalty during the French L1 football match between Paris-Saint Germain (PSG) and Olympique Lyonnais at The Parc des Princes Stadium in Paris on September 19, 2021.
FRANCK FIFE / AFP

 

PSG were back level in the 66th minute as Neymar went down in the box under a challenge from youngster Malo Gusto.

It could just as easily have been a free-kick the other way but a penalty was given and the world’s most expensive player sent the goalkeeper the wrong way after his trademark stuttering run-up.

Messi remains short of full fitness and as he faded from the game he was taken off and replaced by Achraf Hakimi 14 minutes from time.

He appeared to reject coach Mauricio Pochettino’s hand as he walked past, but without him PSG got the winner as Mbappe’s superb cross from the left was headed in by Icardi.

PSG are back in league action at Metz on Wednesday and host Montpellier next weekend before entertaining Manchester City in the Champions League on September 28.

Marseille continued their unbeaten start as Bamba Dieng and Amine Harit netted in a 2-0 win over Rennes at the Velodrome.

Dieng, the 21-year-old forward from Senegal, has now scored three goals in the last two games for Marseille, who are emerging as the most likely team to give PSG a run for their money this season.

Elsewhere, Wissam Ben Yedder’s spot-kick secured Monaco a 2-2 draw in the Cote d’Azur derby at Nice, who saw Amine Gouiri miss a late penalty.

AFP

Go Back To Work While We Continue Negotiations, Ngige Urges Striking Doctors

 

The Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige has appealed to the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) to shelve their industrial action as the Federal Government continues to negotiate with the union to end the dispute.

Ngige made the appeal during an interview on Channels Television’s Sunday Politics, as the resident doctors strike enters Day 59.

“I want to appeal to NARD for them to reconsider their position, get back to work tomorrow or next and then come back again for discussions. We have so many things to discuss,” Ngige said.

“I have nephews who are resident doctors. I have three of them at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Teaching Hospital, UNTH Enugu, Orthopaedic Hospital, Enugu. I have so many of them. I have a son who will graduate in Medicine in October. I cannot destroy the profession, I have to protect the profession too.”

The Minister also reacted to the court case filed by the Federal Government against the striking doctors.

According to Ngige, it is the Federal Ministry of Health and the office of the Attorney General of the Federation that can withdraw the case from court.

“The court has ruled and said ‘Go and do some more settlement but meanwhile, you go back to work and continue the settlement’,” he added.

READ ALSO: Court Orders Resident Doctors To Suspend Industrial Action

Logo of the National Association of resident Doctors (NARD).

 

Despite the National Industrial Court’s ruling ordering the striking doctors to return to work, the Minister asked the plaintiffs – Health Ministry and Attorney General’s office as well as the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) and NARD to approach the Labour Ministry to press their demands.

While noting that he had advised his colleague in the Health Ministry, Dr Osagie Ehanire “to see what he can do so that the discussion will set off,” Ngige said he had always advocated for settlement.

Ngige’s comments come two days after the National Industrial Court ordered resident doctors to suspend their strike action and go back to work, pending the determination of the substantive suit.

Justice Bashar Alkali gave the order on Friday while ruling on an application by the Federal Government.

But the striking doctors have faulted the court’s ruling, vowing to appeal the order.

“As we are all aware, especially those that were present in court today (Friday), the NIC has given a ruling on the application for interlocutory injunction filed by the Federal Government,” the association said via a statement. “We are not satisfied with the ruling.

“After consultations with our lawyers, we have instructed our lawyers to appeal the ruling and file an application for stay of execution.”

Buhari Arrives In New York For UN General Assembly

President Muhammadu Buhari arrives at the John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York on September 19, 2021. Credit: State House

 

President Muhammadu Buhari has arrived in the United States of America, Channels Television has learnt.

The President touched down at the John F Kennedy International Airport in New York, at exactly 5:10 pm local time ahead of the high-level General debate of the United Nations Assembly on September 21, 2021.

He was received by Nigeria’s Permanent representative to the United States, Professor Tijani Bande and the Foreign Affairs Minister, Geoffrey Onyeama.

READ ALSO: No More Selling Dollars To People Who Buy Arms To Hurt Us – Weekly Quotes

President Buhari will address the assembly during the general debates on Friday, September 24.

The President is expected to speak on this year’s theme which is “Building resilience through hope – to recover from COVID-19, rebuild sustainably, respond to the needs of the planet, respect the rights of people and revitalize the United Nations” and other global issues.

Buhari and members of his delegation will partake in other significant meetings such as the high-level meeting to commemorate the twentieth anniversary of the Adoption of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, themed ‘Reparations, Racial Justice, and Equality for People of African Descent’.

FG Imposes Travel Restrictions On Passengers Who Shun COVID-19 PCR Tests

A file photo of Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha.
A file photo of Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha.

 

The Federal Government has imposed travel restrictions on passengers who shun the COVID-19 Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test.

Chairman of the Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19 and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, disclosed this via a statement on Sunday, adding that the restrictions came into effect on September 14.

He explained that passengers arriving Nigeria must go through the routine port health screening and present electronic or print-out evidence of pre-boarding COVID-19 PCR test and the Permit to Travel Certificate/QR Code.

Having done so, the passengers must present their international passports for clearance through the Nigeria Immigration Service System’s Migrants Identification Data Analysis System (MIDAS) and proceed on mandatory seven days self-isolation/quarantine in their selected in-country destination.

“Passengers who fail to show up for this test will face travel restrictions on their passports for at least six months and will not be able to travel abroad for this period. Non-Nigerian passport holders will have their visas revoked,” the SGF said.

“Passengers are advised to avoid physical interaction with friends, family, colleagues, and other members of the public. Passengers should check their emails/text messages regularly for updates regarding the arrangement for their repeat COVID-19 PCR test from the laboratory of their choice.

“During this period, the passenger may be contacted by the COVID-19 Response team to ascertain [the] state of isolation, day-7 testing appointment and health status.”

[READ ALSO] ‘Burnt Out’: Philippine Nurses Battle COVID-19, Resignations

The SGF also announced that the government had lifted the ban placed on flights coming into the country from India.

As precautionary measures to curb the COVID-19 in the country, the Federal Government had banned passengers, who visited India, Brazil, South Africa, and Turkey in the last 14 days from entering the country.

However, the sanctions placed on airlines that convey passengers from restricted countries and travellers who are Non-Nigerians remain.

Mustapha added, “Non-Nigerian passport holders and non-residents who visited Brazil, Turkey or South Africa within 14 days preceding travel to Nigeria, shall be denied entry into Nigeria. This regulation, however, does not apply to passengers who transited through these countries.

“Airlines who fail to comply shall mandatorily pay a penalty of $3,500 per defaulting passenger; and non-Nigerians will be denied entry and returned to the country of embarkation at  cost to the Airline; Nigerians and those with a permanent resident permit who visited Brazil, Turkey, and South Africa within 14 days preceding travel to Nigeria shall be made to undergo seven days of mandatory quarantine in a government-approved facility at the point-of-entry city and at cost to the passenger.”

CAF Champions League: Rivers United Beat Young Africans To Reach First Round

 

Nigerian club side, Rivers United have completed a double win over Young Africans of Tanzania to book their place in the first round of the CAF Champions League.

Rivers United will face Al Hilal of Sudan in the first round of the competition.

The goal, scored in the 89th minute by the newly signed player from Plateau United Uche Onwuasonaya, gave the Pride of Rivers a 1-0 to progress 2-0 on aggregate.

It was a tight encounter at the Adokiye Amiesimaka Stadium in Port Harcourt, but coach Stanley Eguma’s second half substitutions made the difference.

In the first leg of the preliminary round game played in Dar es Salam, Moses Omoduemuke scored a crucial goal to give Rivers United a lone goal victory to consolidate upon in the second leg and they did just that.

At the Samson Siasia Sports Stadium in Yenagoa, Bayelsa United defeated Ashanti Golden Boys of Guinea 4-2 in the first leg preliminary round of the CAF Confederation Cup.

Goals from Favour Martins, Emo James and a brace by Okardi Inikurogha did the job for the Aiteo Cup champions.

Chelsea Outclass Tottenham, Move Top Of League Table


Tottenham players react as Chelsea players congratulate Chelsea’s French midfielder N’Golo Kante after he scored their second goal during the English Premier League football match between Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, on September 19, 2021. JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP

 

Chelsea produced a masterclass on Sunday, beating London rivals Tottenham 0-3 in a Premier League showdown. The victory catapulted the European champions to the top of the table with 13 points after five games.

Both clubs also paid an emotional tribute to their former striker Jimmy Greaves on Sunday.

Thiago Silva put Chelsea ahead early in the second half before N’Golo Kante bagged his first club goal since December 2019.

Antonio Rudiger rounded off Chelsea’s dominant display with a stoppage-time strike as Thomas Tuchel’s latest tactical masterclass paid rich dividends.

Tuchel’s unbeaten side sit top of the Premier League after winning four of their first five games.

Chelsea have only conceded one league goal so far this season despite a tricky fixture list that featured trips to Liverpool, Tottenham and Arsenal.

They face another test of their title credentials next weekend when champions Manchester City visit Stamford Bridge.

It was fitting that two of Greaves’ old clubs met on the day he passed away aged 81.

Hailed as “the finest marksman this country has ever seen” by Tottenham, Greaves is the club’s record scorer with 266 goals in 379 appearances between 1961 and 1970.

The charismatic Londoner started his career with a prolific spell at Chelsea and netted 44 times in 57 appearances for England, featuring in their 1966 World Cup-winning squad.

An image of Greaves wearing Tottenham’s famous white shirt was displayed on screens inside and outside the club’s north London stadium before kick-off.

In a moving tribute, several former Tottenham greats, including Greaves’ old team-mate Martin Chivers, lined up on the touchline to join both teams and the 62,000 crowd in a minute’s applause.

“Jimmy was an incredible player, a legend for club and country. It’s frightening really how good he was,” said Tottenham striker Harry Kane, who is second behind Greaves with 223 goals for the club.

READ ALSO: Ronaldo Scores Third League Goal As Man United Edge West Ham
Former England Striker Jimmy Greaves Dies At 81

Clinical Instincts 

Tottenham players react as Chelsea players congratulate Chelsea’s French midfielder N’Golo Kante after he scored their second goal during the English Premier League football match between Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, on September 19, 2021. JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP

 

Kane had urged Tottenham to “put in a great performance” in Greaves’ honour.

But the England captain was unable to land his first league goal this season as Chelsea showed the kind of ruthless instincts Greaves would have approved of.

In a tight first half, Chelsea’s Andreas Christensen shot just over from the edge of the area before Kai Havertz poked narrowly wide after Marcos Alonso’s cross caused chaos in the Tottenham defence.

With Chelsea keeper Edouard Mendy absent after complaining of a hip injury in midweek Champions League win over Zenit St Petersburg, Kepa Arrizabalaga made his first start this season.

Tottenham’s frenetic tempo meant Kepa had to stay alert and he rushed off his line to save bravely at Son Heung-min’s feet after the South Korean sprinted onto Giovani Lo Celso’s pass.

In a game-changing move, Tuchel sent on France midfielder Kante for Mason Mount at half-time, neutralising Tottenham’s high press in the process.

Where Chelsea had found it hard to take control before Kante’s introduction, now they were in the groove and Silva struck in the 49th minute.

Alonso’s corner found the Brazilian eight yards out and he rose above Dele Alli to thump a superb header past Hugo Lloris.

It took Eric Dier’s agile goal-line clearance to deny Chelsea a second when the defender blocked Alonso’s close-range strike from Cesar Azpilicueta’s pass.

But Chelsea were rampant and they struck again in the 57th minute when Kante’s 25-yard drive took a wicked deflection off Dier and trickled past the wrong-footed Lloris.

Tottenham lost heart as their second successive league defeat loomed and Rudiger rubbed salt into the wounds with a fine finish from Timo Werner’s cross in the final moments.

AFP

SpaceX All-Civilian Orbital Crew Completes Historic Mission


This September 16, 2021, image courtesy of Inspiration4 shows the Inspiration4 crew (L-R) Jared Isaacman, Hayley Arceneaux, Christopher Sembroski and Sian Proctor in orbit. SpaceX’s all-civilian Inspiration4 crew spent their first day in orbit conducting scientific research and talking to children at a pediatric cancer hospital, after blasting off on their pioneering mission from Cape Canaveral the night before. Handout / Inspiration4 / AFP

 

Four SpaceX tourists returned to Earth safely on Saturday after spending three days in space, successfully concluding the first orbital mission in history with no professional astronauts on board.

The SpaceX Dragon capsule, whose heat shield allowed it to withstand descent, was slowed down by four large parachutes before splashing into the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Florida at 7:06 pm (2306 GMT), according to a video feed by the company.

“That was a heck of a ride for us, and we’re just getting started,” billionaire captain Jared Isaacman, who financed the trip with a goal of making space a bit more accessible, said shortly after landing.

A SpaceX boat immediately retrieved the capsule, before its hatch was opened and the space tourists, smiling broadly and waving their arms in the air, exited one by one.

They were next headed for the Kennedy Space Center, where their mission had begun on Wednesday.

The stated goal of the mission, called Inspiration4, was to encourage the democratization of space by proving that the cosmos are accessible to crews that have neither been handpicked nor in training for years.

“Congratulations @Inspiration4x !!!” SpaceX founder Elon Musk tweeted after the landing.

The four space novices — Isaacman and three other Americans — spent three days orbiting Earth, traveling farther than the International Space Station (ISS), at an orbit of about 575 kilometers (357 miles) high, and circling the globe more than 15 times each day.

Isaacman, who paid SpaceX tens of millions of dollars, offered the other three seats to strangers: Hayley Arceneaux, a 29-year-old nurse; Sian Proctor, a 51-year-old professor; and Chris Sembroski, 42, a US Air Force veteran.

However, the exact price that the 38-year-old founder of Shift4 Payments and seasoned pilot shelled out for the mission has not been revealed.

The Inspiration4 crew bonded over the course of six months’ training, compared with years for professional astronauts.

During the flight, the members’ vital signs, including heart rate, sleep, blood oxygen levels and cognitive abilities, were monitored to study the effects of space on complete novices.

But they also enjoyed the view through a brand new observation dome fitted onto the capsule, spoke with actor Tom Cruise from the vessel, ate pizza and listened to music.

[READ ALSO]: ‘Experience Of A Lifetime’: Billionaire Branson Achieves Space Dream

 ‘Second space age’ 

This screen grab shows the first all-civilian crew aboard SpaceX’s Inspiration4 before splashdown during their return to Earth off the Florida coast on September 18, 2021. The four private space tourists aboard a SpaceX capsule are due to return to Earth on Saturday night, touching down off the coast of Florida after three days of orbiting the planet. Handout / NASA / AFP

 

“Welcome to the second space age,” mission director Todd Ericson said at a press conference after the landing.

With its completion, “space travel becomes much more accessible to average men and women.”

There was only one minor issue during the flight, with the capsule’s toilet system, but a solution was quickly found, Ericson said, without giving further details.

“Best ride of my life!” Proctor tweeted after disembarking from the capsule.

The mission served as a huge fundraiser for St Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, a leading facility in Tennessee. Arceneaux received treatment there as a child, and now works there.

The crew took with them various objects — including a ukulele, which Sembroski briefly played live from the vessel on Friday — that will now be auctioned off with proceeds going to the hospital.

The landing marked the third time that Musk’s company has taken humans to space and back, after the return of two NASA missions, one in August 2020 and another in May of this year. Both were bringing astronauts back from a stay at the ISS.

Unlike NASA astronauts, the members of the Inspiration4 mission did not go to the ISS but remained in orbit around the Earth.

The space adventure comes after a summer marked by the battle of the billionaires Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos to reach the final frontier. However their separate suborbital flights only offered a few minutes in zero gravity.

SpaceX is already planning further space tourism flights. In fact, “the amount of people who are approaching us through our sales and marketing portals have actually increased significantly,” said Benji Reed, SpaceX’s director of human spaceflight programs.

The next trip is scheduled for January 2022, with three businessmen on board.

AFP