With a billionaire’s backing, SpaceX sends citizen spacefliers into orbit for a mission like no other

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SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from Florida, sending four civilian astronauts into orbit. (SpaceX via YouTube)

A tech billionaire and three other non-professional astronauts blasted off today to launch the first non-governmental, philanthropic mission to carry a crew to orbit.

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Shift 4 Payments founder and CEO, Jared Isaacman, is paying more than $100 million for what is expected to be a three-day flight aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule.

Isaacman organized inspiration4 mission With the help of SpaceX a. In form of Benefits for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis. The 38-year-old billionaire launched a $200 million campaign. done with Commitment to donate $100 million she herself.


SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket lifts off at 8:02 p.m. ET (5:02 a.m. PT) from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. “Punch it, SpaceX!” Isaacman told Mission Control.

On the webcast, every step of the climb elicited raucous cheer from hundreds of SpaceX employees gathered at the company’s headquarters in California. Nearly half a million viewers watched the streaming coverage at its peak.

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Minutes after liftoff, the rocket’s reusable first-stage booster flew itself back to sea on a drone ship in the Atlantic, while the second stage pushed Crew Dragon into orbit for the rest of the day.

After Dragon reached orbit, Isaacman noted that he and his “all-citizen” crew had made their way into space through a metaphorical door that relatively few humans have passed. “Many people are going to follow,” said Isaacman, an amateur jet pilot trained to control the Dragon if its autonomous navigation system fails. “The door is opening now, and it’s so unbelievable,”

Although the flight began with NASA-owned assets, the space agency has minimal involvement in the mission.

Instead of heading for the International Space Station, as all of SpaceX’s other crewed flights have done, this Crew Dragon will explore an orbit that is 363 miles.585 kmsIt is higher than the Space Station, and higher than the Hubble Space Telescope. In fact, the Inspiration 4 will be humanity’s highest-flying spaceflight since the spacecraft fleet. Hubble Missions, which happened when the space telescope was at a slightly higher altitude.

Earlier: Why Inspiration4’s journey to ‘all-civilian’ orbit represents the beginning of a second space age

The high-altitude itinerary is in line with SpaceX’s aspirations to go beyond Earth orbit – Inspire 4 mission director Todd Erickson said the aspirations were in line with Isaacman’s vision. “We want to start taking the first step toward becoming an interplanetary species, which means we need to start working our way up from low Earth orbit,” Ericsson told GeekWire during a pre-launch interview.

For this trip, SpaceX has developed a cupola that is replacing Crew Dragon’s docking port and will provide a 360-degree view of the sky below or above Earth.

Today’s launch marked the culmination of a process that began with a super bowl commercial And months of training continued for Isaacman and his three companions. The training included hours of study and simulation, a zero-gravity airplane flight, a few nausea-inducing centrifugation sessions, high-G jet maneuvers, and an ascent trip to Mount Rainier in May.

Isaacman’s three teammates were selected in various ways. they include:

  • Hayley Arcinex, a childhood cancer survivor who became a physician assistant at St. Jude. Hospital officials chose Arcinex to fly at the invitation of Isaacman. She is the first person to go into space with a prosthesis – a titanium rod that was placed in her left leg during bone cancer treatment. At 29 years old, Arsinaux is the youngest human to orbit and the youngest American to go into space. (Based on a July suborbital flight aboard Blue Origin’s New Shepard spaceship, Dutch student Oliver Damon holds the world record for the youngest man in space. He was 18 at the time.)
  • Sean Proctor, 51, an Arizona-based educator and artist supporting Isaacman as a pilot for Crew Dragon. This makes her the first black female pilot on an orbital space mission. The proctor was selected through an online competition for users of Shift4’s online payment system.
  • Chris Sambrowski, 42, an Air Force veteran who lives in Everett, Wash., and works as a data engineer for Lockheed Martin. Sambrowski has been a space enthusiast since his youth, and entered Inspiration4’s charity sweepstakes for fourth place on the mission. His ticket was not selected, but the winner turned out to be his college friend. That friend decided not to go and instead chose Sambrowski to fly.

Sembroski will be in charge of managing the payloads aboard Crew Dragon—including medical experiments, flow-in-space items that will be auctioned off to benefit St. Jude, and a guitar he’ll play in space.

During the three days spent in orbit, the Inspiration4 Foursome will monitor their radiation exposure, glucose levels and other health indicators. They will conduct a variety of educational and outreach activities, including school classes and liaison with cancer patients. But they will also have enough time to see Earth through their custom-made cupola.

“Of course I’m going to look at my house in western Washington,” Sambrowski said before liftoff. “I also want to see what I don’t see — and that’s going to be the lines on the map or on the walls that separate us all.”

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