For the first time in the history of human space travel, an orbit bound rocket has no professional astronauts on board.
Elon Musk’s Space X has blasted four civilians into orbit – a billionaire, two contest winners and a health care worker who survived childhood cancer – marking the first chartered passenger rocket for the company.
“It blows me away, honestly,” SpaceX director Benji Reed said from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on the eve of the flight, “It gives me goosebumps even right now to talk about it.”
Jared Isaacman, the Pennsylvania entrepreneur, didn’t reveal the price tag for the flight.
Isaacman is using the flight to raise $200m for St Jude Children’s Research Hospital, with half of the money coming from his own pocket.
He and his fellow passengers will spend three days orbiting Earth on the mission dubbed ‘Inspiration4’, before landing off the Florida coast this weekend.
On the stream below, you can see Isaacman, 38, and his crewmates – Sian Proctor, 51, Hayley Arceneaux, 29, and Chris Sembroski, 42 strapped into the cabin of the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule, dubbed ‘Resilience’.
The crew have no part to play in flying the spacecraft, with all operations done by ground-based flight teams and onboard systems.
The capsule used in the flight has already been in orbit, being used for SpaceX’s second astronaut flight from NASA to the space station.
Aiming for an altitude of 575km, 160km higher than the space station, the mission will be the furthest any human will have flown from Earth since the end of NASA’s Apollo moon program in 1972.
Dragon and the @inspiration4x astronauts are now officially in space! Dragon will conduct two phasing burns to reach its cruising orbit of 575km where the crew will spend the next three days orbiting planet Earth
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) September 16, 2021
The crewmates have spent five months doing rigorous preparation for the trip, including altitude fitness, simulator training and medical exams.
In a race to make space tourism available to the rich, fellow billionaires Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos’ rival companies, Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin, have also begun their own private-astronaut services.
It’ll only be a matter of time before we bear witness to another “d*ck wagging contest” in the name of science. Can’t wait.