NASA is about to launch SpaceX’s most ambitious mission yet, sending a manned spacecraft into low earth orbit for three days, crewed not by professional astronauts, but by four civilians with minimal training.
The mission, called Inspiration4, is expected to lift off within a five-hour launch window that opens up at 5 PM EDT on September 15 (2.30 AM the next day in India). SpaceX’s flagship rocket, the Falcon 9, will carry the Dragon spacecraft with the crew from NASA’s Kennedy Space Centre in Florida. The launch event will be live-streamed by SpaceX on its YouTube channel and the Inspiration4 site.
The historic trip will make the distant dream of space tourism a reality, showing that anyone with enough money to spare can now rent a spacecraft to orbit the earth.
Funded and organized by Jared Isaacman, the billionaire founder of Shift4 Payments, a Texas-based payments processing company. The mission will be the first time an entire civilian crew has been to space. Isaacman has chosen three other people to go with him to space. Hayley Arceneaux, a 29-year-old assistant and cancer survivor. Chris Sembroski, a data engineer and U.S. Space Camp counselor from Washington state. And Dr. Sian Proctor, a 51-year-old geoscientist and science communication specialist with a lifelong dream for space exploration.
(Left to right) Jared Isaacman, Hayley Arceneaux, Dr. Sian Proctor, and Chris Sembroski. Image credit: Inspiration4/John Kraus
Richard Branson of Virgin Galactic and Jeff Bezos of Blue Origin both had their own private trips to space. As their trips barely left the edge of the atmosphere and lasted only a few minutes, they were not considered true space missions.
On the other hand, the Inspiration4 mission is taking the crew to places even most professional astronauts have never been. For three days, the crew will orbit the planet at an altitude of more than 100kms, higher than the orbit of the International Space Station. Although, the crew won’t be visiting the ISS.
It will also beat the Russian commercial space missions coming up in the next few months, where the aging Soyuz spacecraft will take civilians to the International Space Station.