Space is not only for professional astronauts but also for ordinary citizens. That is the message that space tourism sellers like to convey. That’s why one of those companies, SpaceX, owned by billionaire Elon Musk, is sending a special flight to space next week. For the first time, the crew of an orbiting aircraft is made up of only civilians. They are being prepared and trained, but they are not going to be professional astronauts.
Inspiration4, that’s the name of the mission. The captain is 38-year-old billionaire Jared Isaacman, who pays for the flight. He is the founder of payment service Shift4. In his spare time, he is a fighter jet pilot and mountaineer. In 2009, when he was 26, Isaacman flew an airplane around the world in record time. He only needed 62 hours for the journey.
Isaacman chose three citizens to go with him. He also chose a good cause. SpaceX hopes that the flight will raise about 200 million dollars for a children’s hospital in the city of Memphis, including by auctioning items that can be taken on board.
One of the crew members is Hayley Arceneaux (29), who works as a medical assistant at the hospital. As a child, she had cancer. Her knee was replaced, and she got a titanium rod in her thigh. She becomes the first person with a prosthesis to go to space.
Christopher Sembroski (42) is allowed to join because he donates money to the children’s hospital. The fourth and final crew member is Sian Proctor (51), a geology teacher. She tried to become an astronaut for the American space agency NASA in 2009 but failed the final selection round.
The launch is tentatively scheduled for Thursday, but the exact time depends on the weather forecast around the Cape Canaveral space base in Florida. The crew is a maximum of 540 kilometers from Earth. The last time people went this far was in 2009. After a flight of three days, the craft with the four, hanging from a parachute, has to plunge into the Atlantic Ocean.
Musk is in fierce competition with two other billionaires, who have also plunged into space tourism. In July, a Virgin Galactic spaceplane went to the edge of the atmosphere. Onboard were founder Richard Branson and three of his closest associates.
Musk’s other rival, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, also went to great heights a week and a half later. He was aboard the first manned flight of his company Blue Origin. One of the three other passengers was Dutchman Oliver Daemen, the youngest person to ever be in space. But Branson, Bezos, and their companions failed to enter orbit.