ELON Musk has shown Jeff Bezos and Sir Richard Branson how to do Space innovation with humility.
Earlier this week, another batch of space tourists took off via SpaceX rocket. Organised and funded by entrepreneur Jared Isaacman, the Inspiration4 mission touts itself as “the first all-civilian mission to orbit” and represents a new type of space tourism.
The four crew members are not the first space tourists this year. In the past few months, the world witnessed billionaires Branson and Bezos launching themselves and a lucky few others into space on brief suborbital trips.
While there are similarities between those launches and Inspiration4 – the mission is being paid for by a billionaire and is using a rocket built by another – the differences are noteworthy.
A space policy expert has indicated that the mission’s emphasis on public involvement and the fact that Inspiration4 sent regular people into orbit for three days make it a milestone in space tourism.
The biggest difference between Inspiration4 and the flights performed earlier this year is the destination.
Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic took – and in the future, will take – their passengers on suborbital launches. Their vehicles go high enough to reach the beginning of space before returning to the ground a few minutes later. SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket and crew Dragon vehicle, however, are powerful enough to take the Inspiration4 crew all the way into orbit, where they will circle the Earth for three days.
The four-person crew is also different from the other launches. Led by Isaacman, the mission features a diverse group of people. One crew member, Sian Proctor, won a contest among people who use Isaacman’s online payment company.
Another unique aspect of the mission is that one of its goals is to raise awareness of and funds for St Jude Children’s Research Hospital. As such, Isaacman selected Hayley Arceneaux, a physician’s assistant at St Jude and childhood cancer survivor, to participate in the launch.
The final member, Christopher Sembroski, won his seat when his friend was chosen in a charity raffle for St Jude and offered his seat to Sembroski. Because none of the four participants has any astronaut training, the flight has been called the first “all civilian” space mission.
While the rocket and crew capsule are automated – no one on board needed to control any part of the launch or landing – the four members had to go through more training than the people on the suborbital flights. In less than six months, the crew has undergone hours of simulator training, lessons in flying a jet aircraft, and spent time in a centrifuge to prepare them for the G-forces of launch.