SpaceX will send four people into space this Wednesday (15) on a three-day mission, the first to orbit Earth with a fully civilian crew.
The event will mark the entry of billionaire Elon Musk’s company into the space tourism race, which has already featured tours by other wealthy people who want to explore this market.
Last July, Richard Branson flew about 20 minutes into space on Virgin Galactic, while Jeff Bezos spent 10 minutes aboard his company’s Blue Origin spacecraft. These trips were also carried out with civilian crew, but they did not reach Earth orbit.
That’s even the big difference from SpaceX’s flight. the mission is far more ambitious than Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin flights, which were suborbital in scale, sending their crews into space and back to Earth in a matter of minutes.
SpaceX’s flight is designed to transport its four passengers where no civilian crew has gone before: into Earth orbit.
There, they will circle the globe once every 90 minutes and at more than 27,358 kilometers per hour, or approximately 22 times the speed of sound, according to Reuters.
The target altitude is 575 kilometers, beyond the orbits of the International Space Station (ISS) or even the Hubble Space Telescope.
Space company owner Elon Musk will not be on the flight – Jared Isaacman, the American founder of the e-commerce company Shift4 Payments, will make the trip. He’ll take three other novice spaceflight companions (see who they are below).
The vehicle is ready to take off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center atop one of the reusable Falcon 9 rockets, with a 24-hour launch that starts at 9 pm (Brasilia time) next Wednesday (15).
Elon Musk’s company has already transported at least ten astronauts to the ISS on behalf of NASA, but this will be the first time that non-professional astronauts will travel.
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Chris Sembroski, Sian Proctor, Jared Isaacman and Hayley Arceneaux, crew of the Inspiration4 mission — Photo: Inspiration4/John Kraus
The creator of the trip and first crew member is Jared Isaacman, a 38-year-old technology tycoon who invested an undisclosed sum to get Elon Musk to make the event possible.
Nicknamed Inspiration4, the special tour was designed by Isaacman primarily for raising awareness and support for one of your favorite causes, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, a leading pediatric cancer treatment center. He has pledged $100 million to the institute.
Each crew member was selected to represent a pillar of the mission, according to the AFP agency.
the youngest, Hayley Arceneaux, 29, is a childhood bone cancer survivor who represents “hope”. She will be the first person with a prosthesis to travel into space. Arceneaux also works as an assistant physician in Memphis at St. Jude Hospital.
The wave of “generosity” was attributed to Chris Sembroski, 42, a former US Air Force veteran working in the aviation industry.
The last mission chair represents “prosperity” and was offered to Sian Proctor, a 51-year-old science teacher who, in 2009, narrowly missed the opportunity to be a NASA astronaut. She will be only the fourth African American woman to travel into space.
The crew’s training lasted several months, according to the AFP, and included the G-force experiment in a centrifuge – a giant arm that spins at great speed.
They also performed parabolic flights to experience weightlessness for a few seconds and completed a high-altitude snow walk on Mount Rainier in the northwestern United States.
During the three days in orbit, they will have their sleep, heart rate, blood and cognitive abilities examined.
Crew members will undergo tests before and after the mission to study the impact of the trip on their bodies. The idea is to accumulate data for future missions with private passengers.
SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launching April 23, 2021 — Photo: NASA/Ben Smegelsky via REUTERS
A successful mission should help usher in a new era of commercial space tourism, with several companies competing for rich customers willing to pay a small fortune to experience the joy of supersonic flight, weightlessness and the visual spectacle of space.
Defining acceptable levels of consumer risk in this dangerous space travel venture is also critical and raises important questions.
“Do you need to be both rich and brave to take these flights now?” said Sridhar Tayur, professor of operations management and new business models at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, in an interview with Reuters last Friday (10).
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The mission’s stated goal is to make space accessible to more people, although space travel remains partially open to the privileged few.
“In the entire history of mankind, fewer than 600 human beings have reached space,” Isaacman told AFP.
“We are proud that our flight helps to influence all those who will travel after us,” he concluded.
Understand the difference between orbital flight and suborbital flight — Photo: G1