SpaceX is about to send the first ever all-amateur mission into orbit


The crew of the Inspiration4 mission

Inspiration4 / John Kraus

SpaceX is gearing up to try something new. Its Inspiration4 mission, which is planned to launch at 8pm local time on 15 September from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, will have a crew without any professional astronauts. All four of the passengers are private individuals, not government-trained space explorers.

Many people who aren’t professional astronauts have been to orbit aboard various spacecraft, but until now they have always been accompanied by trained professionals. While the passengers on the Inspiration4 mission have undergone some training to make sure they are able to fly safely, they haven’t been through the intensive, years-long process required to become an astronaut for a national space agency.

The commander for the mission will be Jared Isaacman, a billionaire and pilot who paid for the flight. He donated two of the other seats to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Tennessee. One of those seats went to Hayley Arceneaux, a physician assistant at the hospital, and the other to Christopher Sembroski, a data engineer and US Air Force veteran who was given his seat by an unnamed friend who won the hospital’s raffle. The final passenger will be Sian Proctor, a geology professor and member of the US Air Force Civil Air Patrol, who was selected to be the flight’s pilot after winning a competition.

The passengers will ride to space in a Crew Dragon capsule that was previously used for for SpaceX’s Crew-1 mission, the firm’s first operational mission to the International Space Station (ISS) in November 2020. Almost all of the spacecraft’s operations are automated, so if all goes well the crew won’t have to actually steer the ship as it drifts in orbit for three days and then returns to splash down in the Atlantic Ocean.

This flight sets the stage for more tourists into space. SpaceX has plans to use the Crew Dragon to launch further amateur trips to orbit in the next few months, in collaboration with two other companies, Axiom and Space Adventures.

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