SpaceX has announced another feat for the history books—the launch of an all-civilian crew into space.
The innovative space exploration company has announced its plans for the Inspiration4. In the fourth quarter of 2021, SpaceX will launch the world’s first all-commericial mission into space from the Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, which SpaceX has been using since 2017.
In 2020, SpaceX flew NASA astronauts to and from the International Space Station for the first time since the Space Shuttle’s last flight in 2011.
“When you’ve got a brand new mode of transportation, you have to have pioneers,” SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk told NBC Nightly News. “Things are expensive at first, and as you’re able to increase the launch rate, increase the production rate, refine the technology, it becomes less expensive and accessible to more people.”
The Inspiration4 crew will receive training on the Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 launch vehicle. The commercial astronaut training will consist of emergency preparedness training, spacesuit and spacecraft ingress and egress exercises (boarding and landing/emergency escape), partial and full mission simulations, orbital mechanics, operating in microgravity and zero gravity, and stress testing, according to a press release.
This journey will take place over several days and be carefully monitored by SpaceX mission control. The Dragon spacecraft is expected to circle Earth once every 90 minutes along a customised path. Once the mission is over, the launch vehicle will reenter the Earth’s atmosphere and prepare for a “soft water landing” near the Florida coast.
Jared Isaacman, founder and CEO of Shift4 Payments and an accomplished jet pilot, is the first passenger to secure a seat on this journey. Isaacman is trained to fly commercial and military aircraft and has flown in over 100 airshows as a member of the Black Diamond Jet Team. He has dedicated all of his performances with the team to philanthropic causes. Issacman also holds several world records, such as two “speed-around-the-world” flights in 2008 and 2009, both of which raised money for the Make-a-Wish Foundation.
“In fulfilling a personal and lifelong dream, I recognize the tremendous responsibility that comes with commanding this mission,” he said. “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.”
For the Inspiration4, he will be donating the three seats next to him to members of the general public, allowing others to receive an opportunity to join this historic journey. The mission is part of an initiative to raise money for St Jude Children’s Research Hospital, starting with a $100 million donation from Issacman.
“I appreciate this tremendous responsibility that comes with commanding this mission and I want to use this historic moment to inspire humanity while helping to end childhood cancer here on Earth,” the Shift4 Payments CEO said.
The three winners will represent hope, generosity and prosperity, and the contest will be open to US residents. Applicants who donate at least $10 to St Jude’s Research Hospital will be eligible for a chance to win the “generosity” seat. The larger the donation, the more chances applicants have to win.
Those who start a Shift4Shop and post an inspirational story about their business journey on Twitter have the opportunity to win the “prosperity” seat.
The winner of the “hope” seat will be given to a St Jude ambassador, representing “the courageous vision upon which St Jude was founded—compassion, unity, equality and inclusion.”