Four civilians scheduled to enter Earth’s orbit for three days aboard Elon Musk’s Inspiration 4


SpaceX‘s Crew Dragon is scheduled to jettison the first all-civilian space flight to enter the Earth’s orbit on September 15. 

After blastoff at Cape Canaveral, Florida, Inspiration 4’s four-man crew will circle the globe once every 90 minutes at more than 17,000 miles per hour, or roughly 22 times the speed of sound, for three days before splashdown in the Atlantic on Saturday.   

Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos have backed space missions without professional astronauts onboard, however, both of these flights were ‘suborbital’ and lasted just a few minutes. 

Mission commander Jared Isaacman, the American founder and chief executive of e-commerce firm Shift4 Payments, will be joined by three fellow spaceflight novices on the trip which is expected to blastoff at Cape Canaveral, Florida, on Wednesday and splashdown in the Atlantic on Saturday.

Mission commander Jared Isaacman, 38, the American founder and chief executive of e-commerce firm Shift4 Payments, has paid out an unspecified sum to fellow billionaire and SpaceX owner Elon Musk to fund the historic journey.

The crew vehicle is set for blastoff from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center atop one of Musk’s reusable Falcon 9 rockets, with a 24-hour targeted launch window that opens at 8 pm EDT on Wednesday. 

Pictured are ‘Specialist’ Chris Sembroski, 42 (far left), ‘Commander’ Jared Isaacman, 38 (second from left), ‘chief medical officer’ Hayley Arceneaux, 29 (second from right) and ‘pilot’ Sian Proctor, 51 (far right), who are all scheduled to become the first civilians to enter the Earth’s orbit without a professional astronaut onboard this upcoming Wednesday

The crew vehicle is set for blastoff from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center atop one of Musk’s reusable Falcon 9 rockets, with a 24-hour targeted launch window that opens at 8 pm EDT on Wednesday. Pictured is SpaceX CEO Elon Musk speaking at a press conference held in January at the space center about a successful test of the Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon capsule

The crew vehicle is set for blastoff from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center atop one of Musk’s reusable Falcon 9 rockets, with a 24-hour targeted launch window that opens at 8 pm EDT on Wednesday. Pictured is SpaceX CEO Elon Musk speaking at a press conference held in January at the space center about a successful test of the Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon capsule

A Falcon 9 rocket is pictured carrying a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft - this time manned by two professional astronauts on board - in May of 2020

A Falcon 9 rocket is pictured carrying a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft – this time manned by two professional astronauts on board – in May of 2020

Dragon Resilience - the crew's ride into space and back home - is shown on September 12 waiting for the Wednesday launch in the hangar of launch complex 39A

Dragon Resilience – the crew’s ride into space and back home – is shown on September 12 waiting for the Wednesday launch in the hangar of launch complex 39A

That window could be narrowed, or possibly altered, a few days before, depending on weather.

Dubbed Inspiration4, the orbital outing was conceived by Isaacman primarily to raise awareness and support for one of his favorite causes, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, a pediatric cancer center to which he has pledged $100 million personally.

A successful mission would help usher in a new era of commercial space tourism, with companies vying for wealthy customers willing to pay a small fortune to experience the supersonic flight, weightlessness and the visual spectacle of space.

‘While a historic journey awaits us in space, I hope this mission reinforces how far inspiration can take us and the extraordinary achievements it leads to here on Earth.’ tweeted Isaacman of the groundbreaking mission.

A successful mission would help usher in a new era of commercial space tourism, with companies vying for wealthy customers willing to pay a small fortune to experience the supersonic flight, weightlessness and the visual spectacle of space

A successful mission would help usher in a new era of commercial space tourism, with companies vying for wealthy customers willing to pay a small fortune to experience the supersonic flight, weightlessness and the visual spectacle of space

The four crewmates have spent the past five months undergoing rigorous preparations, including altitude fitness, centrifuge (G-force), microgravity and simulator training, emergency drills, classroom work and medical exams

The four crewmates have spent the past five months undergoing rigorous preparations, including altitude fitness, centrifuge (G-force), microgravity and simulator training, emergency drills, classroom work and medical exams

Setting acceptable levels of consumer risk in the inherently dangerous endeavor of rocket travel is also key, and raises a pointed question.

‘Do you have to be both rich and brave to get on these flights right now?’ said Sridhar Tayur, a professor of operations management and new business models at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, in an interview with Reuters on Friday.

SpaceX is easily the most well-established player in the burgeoning constellation of commercial rocket ventures, having already launched numerous cargo payloads and astronauts to the International Space Station for NASA.

Rival companies Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin both recently celebrated their debut astro-tourism missions with their respective founding executives – billionaires Branson and Bezos – each going along for the ride.

But those two high-profile flights were suborbital in scale, sending their crews of citizen astronauts to space and back in a matter of minutes.

The SpaceX flight is designed to carry its four passengers where no all-civilian crew has gone before – into Earth’s orbit.

There, they will circle the globe once every 90 minutes at more than 17,000 miles per hour, or roughly 22 times the speed of sound. 

The SpaceX flight is designed to carry its four passengers where no all-civilian crew has gone before - into Earth's orbit. There, they will circle the globe once every 90 minutes at more than 17,000 miles per hour, or roughly 22 times the speed of sound

The SpaceX flight is designed to carry its four passengers where no all-civilian crew has gone before – into Earth’s orbit. There, they will circle the globe once every 90 minutes at more than 17,000 miles per hour, or roughly 22 times the speed of sound

The Inspiration4 crew will have no part to play in operating their spacecraft, despite some largely honorary titles, though two members - Isaacman and geoscientist Sian Proctor - are licensed pilots. Pictured is the Inspiration 4's launching apparatus

The Inspiration4 crew will have no part to play in operating their spacecraft, despite some largely honorary titles, though two members – Isaacman and geoscientist Sian Proctor – are licensed pilots. Pictured is the Inspiration 4’s launching apparatus

The target altitude is 575 kilometers, or nearly 360 miles high, beyond the orbits of the International Space Station or even the Hubble Space Telescope.

Like Blue Origin, the 20-story-tall SpaceX launch vehicle and crew capsule will take off vertically from a launch pad on a flight directed entirely from the ground.

Branson’s suborbital rocket plane, by contrast, had two highly trained pilots at the controls as it carried its four rear-seat passengers 50 miles high.

The Inspiration4 crew will have no part to play in operating their spacecraft, despite some largely honorary titles, though two members – Isaacman and geoscientist Sian Proctor – are licensed pilots.

Isaacman, who is rated to fly commercial and military jets, has assumed the role of mission ‘commander,’ while Proctor, 51, once a NASA astronaut candidate herself, has been designated as the mission ‘pilot.’

Proctor was selected to join the team through an online contest run by Shift4 Payments.

Rounding out the crew are ‘chief medical officer’ Hayley Arceneaux, 29, a bone cancer survivor turned St. Jude physicians’ assistant, and mission ‘specialist’ Chris Sembroski, 42, a U.S. Air Force veteran and aerospace data engineer. 

Sembroski won a seat on the historic flight in a sweepstake that drew 72,000 applicants and has raised over $100 million in St. Jude donations.  

Jared Isaacman (top left), who is rated to fly commercial and military jets, has assumed the role of mission 'commander,' Sian Proctor (bottom left), 51, once a NASA astronaut candidate herself, has been designated as the mission 'pilot.' Rounding out the crew are 'chief medical officer' Hayley Arceneaux, 29, (pictured top right) a bone cancer survivor turned St. Jude physicians’ assistant, and mission 'specialist' Chris Sembroski (bottom right), 42, a U.S. Air Force veteran and aerospace data engineer

Jared Isaacman (top left), who is rated to fly commercial and military jets, has assumed the role of mission ‘commander,’ Sian Proctor (bottom left), 51, once a NASA astronaut candidate herself, has been designated as the mission ‘pilot.’ Rounding out the crew are ‘chief medical officer’ Hayley Arceneaux, 29, (pictured top right) a bone cancer survivor turned St. Jude physicians’ assistant, and mission ‘specialist’ Chris Sembroski (bottom right), 42, a U.S. Air Force veteran and aerospace data engineer

The four crewmates have spent the past five months undergoing rigorous preparations, including altitude fitness, centrifuge (G-force), microgravity and simulator training, emergency drills, classroom work and medical exams.

Inspiration4 officials stress that the mission is more than a joyride. Once in orbit, the crew will perform medical experiments with “potential applications for human health on Earth and during future spaceflights,” the group said in its press materials.

Appearing in a promotional clip for a Netflix documentary series on the mission, Arceneaux said a big part of her motivation was to kindle hope in her cancer patients.

‘I’m getting to show them what life can look like after cancer,’ she said.



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