Inspiration4: 4 tourists will circumnavigate the Earth on the 1st SpaceX special flight

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida — For the first time in 60 years of manned spaceflight, a rocket prepares to enter orbit with just four tourists, without professional astronauts on board.

WATCH | Live coverage of the launch:

SpaceX’s first private flight will be led by a 38-year-old entrepreneur who is funding the entire trip. He takes two lottery winners with him on a three-day world tour with a healthcare worker who is a childhood cancer survivor.

They will travel alone in a fully automated Dragon capsule, the type SpaceX uses to send astronauts to the International Space Station for NASA. But charter flights won’t go there.

Launching Wednesday night from Kennedy Space Center, the two men and two women will fly 100 miles (160 kilometers) higher than the space station, aiming at an altitude of 357 miles (575 kilometers), just above Hubble’s current position. Space Telescope.

By contrast, Virgin Galactic’s Richard Branson and Blue Origin’s Jeff Bezos briefly hovered in space during their short trip in July – Branson soared 53 miles (86 kilometers), Bezos 66 miles (106 kilometers).

Jared Isaacman, benefactor of private flight, sees it this way: “This is the first step towards a world where ordinary people can go and adventure among the stars.”

A look at the spaceflight called Inspiration4:

MILLIONARY’S MISSION

Isaacman’s sense of fun is flying fighter jets and keeping up with Air Force Thunderbirds. He dropped out of high school and started his own payment processing company, Shift4 Payments, in Allentown, Pennsylvania. He ventured into aviation and founded Draken International for tactical aircraft training. While Isaacman won’t disclose what he paid for the flight, he acknowledges the “valuable debate” about whether the wealthy should spend their wealth solving problems on Earth versus traveling in space. But he now claims that investing in space will cut costs in the future. “Because it’s so expensive, space has become the exclusive domain of world superpowers and their chosen elite,” he told The Associated Press last week. “It just shouldn’t stay that way.” When it announced the flight in February, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and aims to raise another $100 million.

DRAWING CHANCE

Isaacman relocated one of the four capsule seats to St. Jude, and she proposed to her physician assistant Hayley Arceneaux, a former patient who now works at the Memphis, Tennessee hospital. Arceneaux, now 29, was 10 when he was diagnosed with bone cancer, and most of his left thighbone was replaced with a titanium rod. He will be the first person to go into space with a prosthetic, proud to pave the way for the “physically imperfect”. She will also become the youngest American in space, defeating Sally Ride, who became the first American woman in space in 1983 at the age of 32. Contest winners took the last two seats. Sian Proctor, 51, a community college educator and former geology teacher in Tempe, Arizona, beat 200 other Shift4 Payments customers in her space-themed art business. Also a pilot, he was a NASA astronaut finalist more than a decade ago. Chris Sembroski, 42, a data engineer and ex-Air Force missile launcher from Everett, Washington. He entered an open lottery by donating to Jude. He didn’t win, but a friend from his college days won and gave him a place.

EDUCATION LIKE ASTRONAUT

It’s been a whirlwind since the four of them got together in March. They climbed Mount Rainier in Washington in the snow, sampled short bursts of weightlessness in modified aircraft, and made intense, rapid spins in fighter jets and centrifuges. “I know my prosthesis can now handle 8 Gs of force,” Arceneaux told AP. His only concession: SpaceX had to adjust the capsule seat to relieve pain in his knee. Although the capsule is fully automated, SpaceX rehearsed four times, launch, reentry and other critical operations in the capsule simulator. “We definitely did Apollo 13-like simulation trips to the house where pretty much everything broke down and everybody came back. So I think we passed all the tests,” Isaacson said. Said. While accepting the risks, the four were impressed by SpaceX’s focus on security and reusability. However, Sembroski said his wife, a teacher, would delay the celebration until the water splashed out.

SPECIAL VS NASA MISSION

This is SpaceX’s first private flight, and the company is running the show — not including NASA. That’s why SpaceX is providing its own facilities for private passengers to sleep, eat and hang out before takeoff, and slip into white flight suits with black trim. The rental launch pad used by SpaceX is the same one used by Apollo moonwalkers, shuttle astronauts, and three previous NASA crews. And at the end of the mission, they’ll splash down the Florida coast just like their predecessors. The pandemic is again limiting the audience: St. Jude is the father of Danny Thomas’ St. Along with actor Marlo Thomas, who founded Jude, she downsizes her launch delegation and cancels a trip to Florida with talk show host husband Phil Donahue.

THREE DAYS

Isaacman and SpaceX have decided on three days as the sweet spot to orbit Earth. This gives him and his fellow passengers ample time to enjoy the view through a special balloon-shaped window, take blood samples and conduct other medical research, and raise interest in auction items that will benefit the hospital. Despite being roomy for a pod, the Dragon offers almost no privacy; only one curtain protects the toilet. Unlike the space station and NASA’s older shuttles, there are no kitchens or sleeping compartments, or even separate work areas. As for the food, they eat the cold pizza after they take off. They also pack ready-to-eat, astronaut-style food.

SPACE TOURISM IS ON THE RISE

Space tourism has never been this hot. Branson and Bezos launched their company’s rockets into space to fulfill their lifelong dreams while simultaneously increasing ticket sales. Too busy to launch himself, SpaceX founder Elon Musk has two tourist flights to the space station next year – the first as early as January – and also has a special moon photo in the works. The businessmen who spent $55 million each to fly SpaceX to the space station won’t be the first to pay their way there. Seven wealthy clients of Virginia-based Space Adventures drove Russian rockets to the space station from 2000 to 2009. Isaacman traveled to Kazakhstan in 2008 to watch the rise of one of them: Richard Garriott, the video game developer son of the late NASA astronaut Owen Garriott. Although once opposed to space tourism, NASA supports these newcomers. “I can’t expect them to fly safely and fly often,” said Phil McAlister, NASA’s commercial spaceflight director.

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