SpaceX, an aerospace company founded by Elon Musk, launched the Inspiration4 mission with a rich sponsor, two contest winners, and a health care worker.
First time in the history of space tourism, Elon Musk’s American Aerospace Company, SpaceX, launched the Inspiration4 mission on Wednesday, September 16, with four civilian crew and no professional astronauts. The Falcon 9 rocket took off from the Kennedy Space Center pad which was used by the company’s three previous astronaut flights for NASA. This time the Dragon capsule aimed to travel to an altitude of 357 miles (575 kilometers), just beyond the Hubble Space Telescope.
Four amateur travellers
The flight is lead by 38-year-old Jared Isaacman, founder and chief executive officer (CEO) of payment processor Shift4 Payments Inc. He is the third billionaire to launch this summer, followed by the brief space-skimming flights by Virgin Galactic’s Richard Branson and Blue Origin’s Jeff Bezos in July.
Hayley Arceneaux, 29 is a childhood cancer survivor who works as a physician assistant at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee where she was treated earlier. Arceneaux is the first person in space with a prosthesis, a titanium rod in her left leg. Also, she will become the youngest American in space.
— Inspiration4 (@inspiration4x) September 15, 2021
Issac chose the rest of the crew himself through a competition where Chris Sembroski, 42, a data engineer in Everett, Washington, and Sian Proctor, 51, a community college educator in Tempe, Arizona filled the spots.
Dragon capsule flies higher than usual
Isaacman with pilot training persuaded SpaceX to take the Dragon capsule higher than it’s ever been. For the first time, this was approved by SpaceX after a safety review. Previously it was not agreed considering the increased radiation exposure and other risks.
On the eve of the flight, Isaacman told reporters, “Now I just wish we pushed them to go higher. If we’re going to go to the moon again and we’re going to go to Mars and beyond, then we’ve got to get a little outside of our comfort zone and take the next step in that direction”.
While Explorers Club President Richard Garriott, a NASA astronaut’s son who paid the Russians for a space station trip more than a decade ago, said, “Yes, today you must have and be willing to part with a large amount of cash to buy yourself a trip to space. But this is the only way we can get the price down and expand access, just as it has been with other industries before it”.
Next trip of SpaceX
Early next year, SpaceX is planning its next private trip where a retired NASA astronaut will escort three wealthy businessmen to the space station for a weeklong visit. While the Russians will launch an actress, film director, and a Japanese tycoon to the space station in the next few months.
NASA initially opposed the concept of space tourism but now acts as a supporter. former NASA Administrator Charles Bolden informed that the shift from government astronauts to non-professionals “is just flabbergasting”.
While Cornell University’s Mason Peck, an engineering professor who served as NASA’s chief technologist nearly a decade ago, said, “Someday NASA astronauts will be the exception, not the rule. But they’ll likely continue to be the trailblazers the rest of us will follow”.