Inspiration4 soars into orbit with 4 non-professional astronauts
Less than eight months after its announcement, the all-private civilian Inspiration4 mission has launched into orbit.
38-year-old billionaire Jared Isaacman, along with three ordinary people — 29-year-old Hayley Arceneaux, 51-year-old Sian Proctor and 42-year-old Chris Sembroski — launched in a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft atop a Falcon 9 rocket at 8:02 p.m. EDT Sept. 15 (00:02 UTC Sept. 16) from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.
This flight, the first all-private civilian orbital spaceflight, sent the four non-professional astronauts into space on a three-day trip.
Dubbed Inspiration4, the mission is designed to inspire the world to dream big and to look to the future. The flight found half of its crew as part of nationwide contests, which are part of a $200 million donation drive for the St Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
Each of the crewmembers were chosen to fill the four seats based on their representations of the mission’s four core values: Leadership, hope, generosity and prosperity.
Isaacman, the mission’s commander and financial backer, represents the pillar of leadership. Proctor, the winner of an entrepreneurship competition, is the mission’s pilot and represents the pillar of prosperity. Chief medical officer and childhood cancer survivor Hayley Arceneaux will represent the pillar of hope. Finally, mission specialist and U.S. Air Force veteran Sembroski represents the pillar of generosity.
Following the launch, the Falcon 9 first stage booster returned to touch down on the company’s Autonomous Drone Ship Just Read the Instructions. The SpaceX Dragon capsule rode the second stage farther into space before arriving to an orbit apogee higher than the Hubble Space Telescope, not seen by humans since the Apollo program to the Moon.
The mission will last a total of three days, with a planned splashdown in the ocean off the coast of Florida, either the Gulf of Mexico or the Atlantic Ocean.
During those three days, the crew and their actions will be extensively documented, with much of the footage becoming part of a Netflix documentary series. The mission isn’t all fun and games, however, as the crew will perform various tests as part of scientific research on humans ability to perform in spaceflight. These tests will mirror tests completed prior to the flight, with more to be done after.
The successful launch of the crew brings big implications for the future of spaceflight. For the first time, a crew of regular people have launched into orbital space without NASA or other government space agency crew.
While Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin made their first successful suborbital tourism flights earlier this year, the launch of Inspiration4 opens a new world of possibilities for orbital adventures, while also adding another option to space tourism.
With the planned Axiom Space crew missions to the International Space Station just on the horizon, the future of space tourism is becoming more of a reality.
While the current cost of such an endeavor is astronomical to the average person, these events mark only just the beginning of what decades from now could be a regular and affordable form of travel. In the early days of the airplane, tickets were priced at such height that only the ultra rich could afford the luxury of an airplane flight.
Comparatively speaking, 118 years after the first flight, commercial air travel is now an affordable reality that millions utilize.
Time will tell what the future holds, but for now, four regular people are orbiting Earth for the very first time, marking the beginning of a new era in commercial spaceflight.
Video courtesy of SpaceX
Video courtesy of Orbital Velocity
Matt Haskell is a published aviation and spaceflight photographer and writer based in Merritt Island Florida. Born and raised outside Edwards Air Force Base and NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center, he moved to Florida’s Space Coast and began photographing and reporting spaceflight professionally full time in 2018.