SpaceX Inspiration4 with amateur astronauts successfully reached orbit
The Inspiration4 crew, which is the first comprised of amateur astronauts, features a billionaire, a medic, a scientist and a US Air Force veteran.
SpaceX Inspiration4 mission has successfully reached orbit following its launch from NASA’s space facility in Florida. The historic mission is the first to feature a crew entirely comprised of amateur astronauts.
Inspiration4’s crew includes billionaire commander Jared Isaacman, pilot Sian Proctor, medical officer Hayley Arceneaux and mission specialist Chris Sembroski. All four amateurs trained for six months prior to embarking on the mission, which launched last night (15 September).
SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell said the mission was “paving the way for a future where space is more accessible to all who wish to go.”
“We are so proud that they entrusted us to fly them,” Shotwell continued, before thanking the crew and their families on behalf of SpaceX employees.
The crew have taken SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft and will spend three days in orbit. It is the company’s first private space flight. Billionaire Isaacman financed the mission with the goal of raising $200m for St Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital.
Another crew member, Arceneaux, has a connection with the hospital having overcome bone cancer as a child there. She now works at the hospital.
Isaacman was also adamant that his mission would go higher than other space travellers had gone before. The mission’s target altitude is 575km, which is around 150km above the orbiting laboratory. It will not be visiting the ISS.
The final shuttle servicing mission of the Hubble Space Telescope in 2009 was the last time astronauts had travelled at an altitude above 570km.
Isaacman said: “We’ve been going to the space station for some time, and there’s just unbelievable science and research and great contributions that are coming out of there.”
The ISS is at an altitude of about 420km. “But if we’re going to go to the Moon again, and we’re going to go to Mars and beyond, we’ve got to get a little outside of our comfort zone and take that next step in that direction,” Isaacman added, explaining his reason for choosing such an ambitious altitude target.
The billionaire made his fortune through payment processing platform Shift4 Payments. It is not known how much exactly he paid for Inspiration4’s mission.
The mission marks the latest development in space tourism, which has become popular among those who can afford it. Billionaire businessmen Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos embarked on space tours of their own recently.
The Crew Dragon has been fitted with a special dome window from which the four amateurs can view the cosmos. Pilot Proctor said she plans to paint while admiring the view, having won her seat through her role as an artist and entrepreneur. The science communications expert almost became a NASA astronaut but missed out.
Sembroski is a US Air Force veteran and works as an engineer with aerospace company Lockheed Martin. He secured his place on the trip after his friend asked him to take his place on the mission.