The world’s first crew of “amateur astronauts” are preparing to take off on a mission that will take them into orbit around Earth before bringing them home for the weekend.
The four civilians, who have spent the past few months in an intensive astronaut training course, will launch on SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 8.02pm local time on Wednesday (1.02am UK time). Thursday).
Unless failures occur, the two men and two women from the Inspiration4 mission are expected to orbit the planet for three to four days, conduct experiments, and admire the view through a glass dome installed in their Dragon capsule, before splashing in the Atlantic Ocean.
Promoted as “the world’s first fully civilian mission in orbitThe launch is the latest to promote the virtues of space tourism and follows suborbital flights in July from Sir Richard Branson on Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo, who has since been punished for deviating, and Jeff Bezos on the New Shepard rocket from Blue Origin. .
While the Inspiration4 crew has received flying lessons, spin sessions to experience launch g-forces, and hours of training in SpaceX’s capsule simulator, the mission will be almost fully automated. The capsule must orbit Earth at an altitude of 360 miles (575 km), about 93 miles higher than the International Space Station.
Elon Musk’s SpaceX announced in February that billionaire businessman Jared Isaacman, who has racked up thousands of hours on multiple planes, had chartered the Falcon 9 rocket for himself and three members of the public. He donated two seats to St Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, and selected Hayley Arceneaux, a former cancer patient at the hospital, and now an employee there, to join him. At 29, Arceneaux will become the youngest American in orbit.
Also on the mission are Dr. Sian Proctor, a geologist and science communicator who made it to the final round of NASA’s astronaut selection process in 2009, and Chris Sembroski, a U.S. Air Force veteran and aerospace engineer with Lockheed. Martin, who was offered the seat by a friend who won it in a St Jude charity raffle.
While the Inspiration4 mission is another paid for by a billionaire businessman, it marks a milestone in space tourism: never before has a fully amateur crew been put into orbit. “It will be the first time that a global superpower has not sent people into orbital space,” Isaacman said. “When this mission is completed, people will see it and say, ‘It was the first time ordinary people could go into space.’
Louis Brennan, professor of business studies at Trinity Business School in Dublin, said SpaceX is “leading the pack” of private sector companies interested in space. He compared today’s space tourism to the time before low-cost airlines created a massive market for air travel. “In the same way, space tourism is likely to remain the exclusive domain of the wealthiest classes in the short and medium term, as the cost is prohibitive for middle-income people,” he said. “In the longer term, as costs mean reducing, it is likely to become a mass market activity. However, for now and in the short and medium term it will be a niche market ”.
As the industry moves beyond national space agency contracts to tourism, it will be more crucial than ever to avoid setbacks and disasters. “Safety in space tourism is paramount, as any accident involving death or injury runs the real risk of fatally undermining the confidence of potential space tourism customers,” said Brennan.