The world’s first all-civilian mission to space, called Inspiration4, launches tomorrow.
The landmark mission, conducted by SpaceX, the firm of billionaire Elon Musk, will launch Wednesday at 8:02 p.m. EDT (1:02 a.m. BST Thursday) from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida over a five-hour period.
It will send four civilians – Jared Isaacman, Hayley Arceneaux, Sian Proctor and Chris Sembroski – on a three-day orbital flight around Earth.
An ‘accomplished jet fighter pilot’ according to Inspiration4’s websiteIsaacman, the mission commander, is financing the trip in a private deal with SpaceX.
The team will be aboard a specially modified version of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule, featuring a domed window or ‘Cupola’ for sensational views of space.
Inspiration4 is the latest in a series of ambitious spaceflights announced by billionaire CEOs, following the likes of Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin earlier this summer.
The Inspiration4 crew (LR) Chris Sembroski, Sian Proctor, Jared Isaacman and Hayley Arceneaux pose for a photo. – The Inspiration4 mission will send only civilians into space for a few days aboard a SpaceX rocket
– Jared Isaacman, CEO of Shift4 Payments
– Sian Proctor, teacher at a community college in Arizona
– Chris Sembroski, a former Washington Air Force missile operator
– Hayley Arceneaux, an assistant physician at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Tennessee
Last week, the Inspiration4 website confirmed that the four-member team had arrived in Florida on Thursday, a day after completing their last day of astronaut training at SpaceX’s headquarters in Hawthorne, California.
“After arrival, the SpaceX and Inspiration4 teams also met last night for a follow-up flight readiness assessment and an initial weather briefing,” it reads.
The website also confirmed Monday that the five-hour launch window will open on Wednesday at 8:02 PM EDT.
“If for any reason you need to, a backup window is available that opens at 8:05 PM EDT on Thursday, September 16,” it added.
The US Space Force’s 45th Weather Squadron predicts a 70 percent chance of favorable conditions for takeoff.
The four-member team led by Isaacman is launched aboard SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket.
Isaacman is the CEO of Shift4 Payments, while: Proctor is a community university teacher in Arizona, Chris Sembroski a former Washington Air Force missile man, and Hayley Arceneaux a physician assistant at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Tennessee.
Inspiration4 is primarily aimed at raising awareness and support for the pediatric cancer center, which Arceneaux successfully treated for bone cancer when she was a child.
SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule features a domed window or ‘Cupola’ to give a sensational view of space to the four-person crew
SpaceX showed a new photo of the glass dome that people will view space from every day in the upcoming Inspiration4 mission
Arceneaux was added to the team in February, while Proctor was announced in March
While this isn’t the first time civilians have traveled to space, it’s the first mission to be manned solely by civilians.
Crew Dragon will orbit the Earth for just three days, completing one orbit every 90 minutes along a modified flight path while traveling at more than 17,000 miles per hour.
Progress will be closely monitored at every step by SpaceX mission control.
SpaceX says, “Upon completion of the mission, Dragon will re-enter Earth’s atmosphere for a soft-water landing off the coast of Florida.”
Jared Isaacman, left to right, Hayley Arceneaux, Sian Proctor and Chris Sembroski make up the Inspiration4 crew
Pictured, Inspiration4 mission commander Jared Isaacman, founder and chief executive officer of Shift4 Payments
The Inspiration4 crew has received commercial astronaut training from SpaceX on the Falcon 9 launch vehicle and Dragon spacecraft, orbital mechanics, operating in low gravity and other forms of stress testing before embarking on a journey.
“There will be several months of training,” Isaacman previously told DailyMail.com.
Crew Dragon’s 365 pounds payload is allocated for both crew supplies and scientific equipment for microgravity research and experimentation.
“While we’re up there, we’re going to bring loads and do experiments,” Isaacman said.
“We’ve offered to take loads from St. Jude’s and other places because the waiting list is extremely long.”
After announcing Inspiration4 in February, Musk told NBC News: ‘Any mission with a crew on board makes me nervous. The risk is not zero.
‘If you have a brand new mode of transport, you must have pioneers. Things are expensive in the beginning, and because you can increase the launch speed, increase the production speed, refine the technology, it becomes less expensive and accessible to more people.
“We’ll all be with Jared on the journey and we’ll see it in real time. It is an important milestone on the road to making access to space more affordable.’
A shot of the Inspiration4 suit, decorated with a patch that represents the four pillars of the mission: leadership, hope, generosity and prosperity
A few days later, during the SuperBowl intermission, a 30 second ad was aired asking potential Inspiration4 crew members to sign up on her website.
The ad showed close-up shots of a SpaceX Suit, adorned with a patch representing the four pillars of the mission: leadership, hope, generosity and prosperity.
These four pillars also correspond to the four crew members – Isaacman, Arceneaux, Sembroski and Proctor respectively, according to the Inspiration4 website.
The SpaceX-led mission follows journeys into space by two of Musk’s billionaire rivals – Sir Richard Branson, who heads Virgin Galactic, and Jeff Bezos, founder of Blue Origin and Amazon.
Bezos flew to space on July 20 aboard a New Shepard rocket with his brother Mark Bezos, as well as Dutch 18-year-old Oliver Daemen, who became the youngest person in space, and former NASA intern Wally Funk, 82, he became the oldest.
The founder of Blue Origin reached 13 miles higher than rival billionaire Sir Richard Branson who flew to space on his own manned test flight on July 11.
The difference with SpaceX’s mission on Wednesday is that the company’s boss, Musk, does not fly to space himself.
Inspiration4 also plans to go into orbit – beyond Virgin Galactic or Blue Origin.
The three ultra-wealthy CEOs envision an era when the public is paying exorbitant amounts for a vacation in space – a phenomenon often referred to as “space tourism.”
In the age of climate change and a viral pandemic, some believe there are more important things than flying away on luxury spaceflights.
Broadcaster John Humphrys wrote to MailOnline in July: ‘Let’s try to swallow our envy that billionaires are allowed to cruise the cosmos when most of us can’t even last a week in Crete.’
He called the current space race a “completely pointless exercise in inflating egos that are already smaller than the size of the average planet.”
SPACEX CREW DRAGON CAPSULE MEASURES 20FT AND CAN CARRY 7 ASTRONAUTS AT A TIME
The March 2 test, the first launch of US astronauts from US soil in eight years, will inform system design and operation (Artist’s impression)
The capsule is approximately 20 feet long and 12 feet in diameter and can carry up to 7 astronauts at a time.
The Crew Dragon features an advanced emergency flight system (tested earlier this year) to quickly get astronauts to safety if something goes wrong, experiencing roughly the same G-forces as a ride at Disneyland.
It also has an Environmental Control and Life Support System (ECLSS) that provides a comfortable and safe environment for crew members.
Crew Dragon’s displays provide real-time information about the state of the spacecraft’s capabilities, showing everything from Dragon’s position in space to possible destinations and the environment on board.
Those CRS-2 Dragon missions use “propulsive” landings, where the capsule lands on a landing pad using its SuperDraco thrusters rather than splashing into the ocean.
That will give NASA faster access to the cargo returned by those spacecraft, as well as build experience for propulsive landings of manned Dragon spacecraft.