HOUSTON, 16 Sept 2021:
The first space mission composed entirely of private citizens was launched successfully yesterday from Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, to orbit the Earth for three days.
The historic launch of the Inspiration4 mission occurred at 8.02pm local time, as scheduled, aboard a Dragon capsule, powered by a Falcon 9 rocket from Elon Musk’s SpaceX.
The crew members are all amateur astronauts – billionaire businessman Jared Isaacman, 38, who funded the mission, aeronautical engineer Chris Sembroski, 42, physician’s assistant Hayley Arceneaux, 29, and pilot, geoscientist and artist Sian Proctor, 51.
The reusable section of the Falcon 9 rocket landed a few minutes after liftoff on SpaceX’s “Just Read the Instructions” platform in the Atlantic Ocean.
The four crew of the automated Dragon capsule received six months of training, including emergency preparedness, spacesuit and spacecraft ingress and egress exercises, as well as partial and full mission simulations, and operating in zero gravity.
They will orbit Earth every 90 minutes and reach an altitude of about 575km (357 miles) – about 160km higher than the International Space Station, the highest that any humans have gone since the last Hubble telescope servicing mission in 2009, according to SpaceX.
It is also a distance greater than that of the suborbital trips which millionaires Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson made this year aboard the flights of their respective private space companies.
At age 10, Arceneaux was diagnosed with bone cancer, and is now the youngest American to go to space as part of the Inspiration4 mission – which also aims to raise US$200 million for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, where she was treated as a child and now works.
Arceneaux, also the first person with a prosthesis to travel to space – a titanium rod in her left leg, had said “this mission is opening space travel to people who are not physically perfect.”
Proctor, the other female crew member, is the first Black woman to pilot a spacecraft.
Both the capsule and the rocket had already been used in other missions as part of a SpaceX strategy that has lowered the costs of space exploration.
The trip, commanded by Isaacman, founder and CEO of Shift4 Payments, will last three days and will end when the Dragon capsule splashes into the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Florida.