Inspiration4: SpaceX’s All-Civilian Crew Mission Launch Scheduled for September 15
As Elon Musk’s business enters the space tourism arena, SpaceX is ready to launch four people into space on a three-day mission that will be the first to orbit the Earth with solely private citizens on board. The Inspiration4 mission brings to a close a summer that saw billionaires, Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos, on Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin spaceships, respectively, cross the final frontier a few days apart in July.
American billionaire Jared Isaacman, the 38-year-old founder and CEO of payment processing startup Shift4 Payment, has chartered the SpaceX journey. He’s also an accomplished pilot. He hasn’t revealed the precise amount he paid SpaceX, but it is in the tens of millions of dollars. The flight itself is significantly more ambitious than the few weightless minutes available from Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin.
The SpaceX Crew Dragon will travel beyond the International Space Station’s orbit. In an episode of a Netflix documentary on the trip, Isaacman noted, “The risk is not zero. You’re traveling around the Earth in a rocket at 17,500 miles per hour (28,000 kilometers per hour). There are dangers in such an environment.”
SpaceX has already sent ten people to the International Space Station on behalf of NASA, but this will be the first time it transports non-professional astronauts. The launch will take place on Wednesday at 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time (5:30 a.m. IST) from NASA’s Kennedy Center in Florida’s launch pad 39A, where the Apollo missions to the Moon took off.
Who are the members of the SpaceX crew?
In addition to Isaacman, who is the mission commander, three non-public persons will be joining the expedition. The crew selection is according to a process, the original advertisement of the process came at the Super Bowl in February. Furthermore, each crew member represents one of the mission’s pillars.
Hayley Arceneaux, the youngest, is a childhood bone cancer survivor who stands for “hope”. She will be the first person to travel to space with a prosthetic limb. In the documentary, when she was handed her spot, she inquired, “Are we going to the Moon? It appears like no one has visited there in decades”. The 29-year-old was chosen because she works as a Physician Assistant for St. Jude’s Hospital in Memphis, which is Inspiration4’s philanthropic benefactor.
Chris Sembroski, 42, a former US Air Force veteran who currently works in the aviation sector, was one of the donors who secured the seat of “generosity.” Sian Proctor, a 51-year-old earth science professor was granted the final seat, which symbolizes “prosperity”. In 2009, she narrowly missed out on becoming a NASA astronaut. She’ll be the fourth African-American woman to travel to space.
Training and Preparation
The crew went through months of preparation, which included experiencing high G forces on a centrifuge, which is a giant arm that rotates quickly. They’ve also performed a high-altitude, snowy trip on Mount Rainier in the northwest United States, where they experienced weightlessness for a few seconds.
They spent time at the SpaceX base, although the trip will be completely self-containing. Their sleep, heart rate, blood, and cognitive capacities will all be monitored over their three days in orbit. Before and after the flight, tests will be conducted to determine the impact of the trip on their bodies. The aim is to gather information for future missions with private passengers.
The mission’s official goal is to make space travel more accessible to more people, while space flight is currently exclusively available to a select few. “There have only been about 600 humans who have traveled to space in all of human history. We are glad that our flight will have an impact on all future travelers” Isaacman added. For more such updates, keep watching this space!