SpaceX will launch four people into space on Wednesday (15) on a three-day mission, the first to orbit the Earth with non-professional astronauts on board, and with which Elon Musk’s company enters the race for space tourism.
The mission “Inspiration4” closes a northern summer in which billionaires Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos crossed the space boundary with the Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin spacecraft, respectively, a few days apart in July.
The SpaceX flight was chartered by US billionaire Jared Isaacman, 38-year-old founder and CEO of payment processing company Shift4 Payment. He is also an experienced pilot.
The price Isaacman paid SpaceX is unknown, but it is on the order of tens of millions of dollars.
The mission itself is far more ambitious in scope than the few minutes of lightness that Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin customers have paid for.
SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule will fly beyond the orbit of the International Space Station (ISS).
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“The risk is not zero,” Isaacman said in an episode of a Netflix documentary about the mission.
“You are traveling in a rocket at 28,000 kilometers per hour around the Earth. In this type of environment, there are risks,” he added.
SpaceX has already brought no fewer than ten astronauts to the ISS on behalf of NASA, but this will be the first time non-professional astronauts will travel.
Take-off is scheduled for Wednesday at midnight (local time, Tuesday at 9:00 pm EDT) from Launch Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Center in Florida, where the Apollo Moon missions took off.
“Go to the Moon?”
In addition to Isaacman, who is the mission commander, three non-public figures were chosen for the trip through a process that was first announced in February at the Super Bowl.
Each crew member was chosen to represent a pillar of the mission.
The newest, Hayley Arceneaux, 29, is a childhood bone cancer survivor who represents “hope”. He will be the first person with a prosthesis to go into space.
“Go to the Moon?” he asked when he was offered a place on the mission.
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“Apparently people haven’t been there in decades. I learned that,” he laughed at the documentary.
She was chosen because she works as a medical assistant in Memphis for St. Jude Hospital, a beneficiary of the Inspiration4 fundraising event.
The “generosity” seat went to Chris Sembroski, 42, a former US Air Force veteran who works in the aviation industry.
The last seat represents “prosperity” and was offered to Sian Proctor, a 51-year-old science teacher who in 2009 narrowly missed the chance to become a NASA astronaut. She will be the pilot of the mission, assisting the commander.
The crew’s training lasted several months and included experiments with high G-force in a centrifuge, a giant arm that rotates at high speed.
They also took parabolic flights to experience weightlessness for a few seconds and completed a high-altitude snow walk on Mount Rainier in the northwestern United States.
They spent time at the SpaceX base, although the flight itself is completely autonomous.
During the three days they are in orbit, they will be tested for sleep, heart rate, blood and cognitive abilities.
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Tests will be conducted 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.
The mission’s stated goal is to make space accessible to more people, although space travel remains for now only partially open to the privileged few.
“In the entire history of mankind, fewer than 600 humans have reached space,” Isaacman said. “We are proud that our flight helps to influence all those who travel after us.”