WASHINGTON – SpaceX is set to launch four people into space on a three-day mission Wednesday, the first to orbit Earth exclusively with private citizens, as Elon Musk’s company enters the space tourism fray .
The “Inspire 4” mission ends in the summer with billionaires Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos crossing the final frontier aboard the Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin spaceships, respectively, a few days apart in July.
The SpaceX flight has been chartered by American billionaire Jared Isaacman, the 38-year-old founder and CEO of payments processing company Shift4Payment. He is also an experienced pilot.
The price it paid to SpaceX has not been disclosed, but it runs in the millions of dollars.
The mission itself is far more ambitious than the few weightless minutes that Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin customers can buy.
SpaceX Crew Dragon will fly beyond the orbit of the International Space Station.
“The risk is not zero,” Isaacman said in an episode of the Netflix documentary about the mission.
“You’re driving a rocket around Earth at 17,500 miles (28,000 kilometers) per hour. There’s a risk in an atmosphere like that.”
SpaceX has already ferried at least ten astronauts to the ISS on behalf of NASA – but this will be the first time it will carry non-professional astronauts.
Lift-off is scheduled for 8:00 a.m. Eastern time (0000 GMT) on Wednesday from Launch Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Center in Florida, where the Apollo mission to the Moon took off.
‘Are we going to the moon?’
In addition to Isaacman, who is the mission commander, three non-public figures were selected to travel through a process that was first advertised at the Super Bowl in February.
Each crew member was selected to represent a pillar of the mission.
The youngest, Hayley Arsinaux, is a childhood bone cancer survivor, who represents “hope”.
She will be the first artificial person to go into space.
“Are we going to the moon?” she asked, when she was offered his place.
“Obviously people haven’t been there for decades. I learned that,” she laughed in the documentary.
The 29-year-old was chosen because she works as a physician assistant in Memphis for St. Jude’s Hospital, a charitable beneficiary of Inspiration4.
One of the donors took the seat of “generosity”: Chris Sambrowski, 42, a former US Air Force veteran who now works in the aviation industry.
The last seat represents “prosperity” and was offered to 51-year-old Earth science professor Sean Proctor, who missed out on becoming a NASA astronaut in 2009.
She will be only the fourth African American woman to go into space.
months of training
Crew training has lasted months and involved experiencing high G-forces on a centrifuge – a giant arm that spins rapidly.
They have also gone on parabolic flights to experience weightlessness for a few seconds and have completed a high-altitude, icy trek on Mount Rainier in the northwestern United States.
He spent time at a SpaceX base, although the flight would be completely autonomous.
Over three days of class, their sleep, heart rate, blood and cognitive abilities will be analyzed.
Tests will be conducted before and after the flight to study the effect of travel on their bodies.
The idea is to collect data for future missions with private passengers.
The stated goal of the mission is to make space accessible to more people, although space travel is currently partially open to the privileged few.
“In all human history, fewer than 600 humans have reached space,” Isaacman said.
“We are proud that our flight will help influence all those who will travel after us.”