After successfully taking off from Cape Canaveral in Florida (USA) under a clear night sky, the first all-civilian crew, consisting of two women and two men, will orbit the Earth for three days. Certainly a long-awaited milestone in the commercialization of spaceflight.
The Falcon 9 rocket lifted off from Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center without problems during the countdown or liftoff, with the Crew Dragon Resilience spacecraft separating from the upper stage of the rocket 12 minutes after liftoff after reaching the orbit.
The first civilian crew in orbit
Of the four people on board, none of them is a professional astronaut, and they will spend three days in space at an altitude of approximately 575 kilometers before landing off the coast of Florida.
Although the historic mission represents the fourth flight manned by SpaceX, it is the first in which NASA is not involved. The Demo-2, Crew-1 and Crew-2 missions featured astronauts from NASA, the European Space Agency, and the Japanese space agency JAXA on missions to the International Space Station. Inspiration4 will not dock to the station.
Aboard the ship is mission commander Jared Isaacman, founder and CEO of Shift4 Payments and contractor for Inspiration4. With him are Medical Officer Hayley Arceneaux , a physician assistant at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and a pediatric cancer survivor; mission specialist Chris Sembroski, Air Force veteran and aerospace data engineer; and pilot Sian Proctor, geoscientist, entrepreneur and pilot. All of them are carrying out their first space flight.
The four represent the seats chosen for this mission: leadership, hope, generosity and prosperity. Isaacman, the commander, represents leadership. The seat of hope is occupied by Hayley Arceneaux, who was treated for cancer as a child; the other two people came from contests Inspiration4 ran in February. Chris Sembroski was the winner of a raffle for “generosity”. The fourth seat went to Sian Proctor, a geoscientist and artist who opened an online store through Shift4 and submitted a video describing her desire to fly in space for the “prosperity” seat.
The spacecraft is carrying a payload of memorabilia and other items, including digital collectibles known as non-expendable tokens (NFTs), which will be auctioned off to continue to raise money for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. So far, they have raised $ 131 million, out of the $ 200 million goal.
Although there have been space tourists before, this is the first time that a totally private crew has flown in a privately built and operated spacecraft rather than a state ship with government astronauts.
The mission is a demonstration of the feasibility of dedicated commercial human orbital spaceflight, an ambitious goal of both the space industry and NASA that has finally seen the light of day.
Some members of the crew see his presence as a symbol. Sian Proctor, for example, explained that she will be the fourth black woman in space and the first to serve as a pilot, supporting Isaacman in the operations of the Crew Dragon spacecraft.
“I have this opportunity to not only achieve my dream, but also to inspire the next generation of women of color and girls of color, and make them really think about reaching for the stars,” said Proctor.
As a curiosity, the Inspiration4 has a message encrypted in Morse code stamped in the background of the images. The message says: “Ad astra” , which comes from the Latin phrase “Ad astra per aspera” which means, “from adversity to the stars.”