Inspiration4: The First All-Civilian Mission To Orbit

Sep 6, 2021
5 min read

This marks the beginning for people like us, flying to space. Yes, you read that right! Now, with the growing ambitions and accomplishments of SpaceX, it has become possible for civilians to get a chance to live the dream of visiting space. SpaceX has proved with examples, over time, that they can successfully take up numerous space missions with perfect launches and landings. Additionally, with NASA's approval, not just cargo but humans can also take a seat in the crafts going to space. One such mission is Inspiration4. Read ahead to learn everything about this mission.

The Mission: Goals and Records

Usually, space missions are tied to goals like scientific explorations and experiments, like finding traces of water on celestial surfaces, checking the atmospheric conditions, and more. But this one is special, as it is a privately funded mission with a revolutionary set of goals:

Raise awareness and $200 million for the St. Jude Children’s Hospital, Tennessee to help find cure for life-threatening diseases in children.
Democratize space, extending the space travel opportunities to individuals other than professional astronauts. In a nutshell, it is an initiative to allow common people to go to space.
Conduct microgravity research and other scientific experiments (details not yet disclosed) while flying through space.

A young billionaire businessman, Jarred Isaacman, is the man behind the mission and the one funding it. He is the one to bring the noble fund-raiser idea and has donated $100 million that covers half of the intended $200 million fund.

SpaceX has successfully completed 3 manned missions with NASA that include Crew Dragon Demo-2, Crew-1, and Crew-2. The Inspiration4, being a privately funded all-civilian mission, sets the record of being the first of its kind.

How Will It Get To Space?

The mission crew will be on-board the SpaceX Resilience Crew Dragon capsule mounted atop the SpaceX Falcon 9 Block 5 rocket, which is a partially reusable, medium-lift launch vehicle. Here are some details you should know about the launch.

  • The rocket will be launched from the Kennedy Space Center, Florida.
  • It will reach an altitude of 365 miles in the Low Earth Orbit (which is beyond the altitude where the Hubble Telescope flies).
  • It is estimated that the mission will be 3 days long starting from liftoff to landing.
  • The mission will be autonomously controlled from the SpaceX Mission Control Center in California.
  • In case of emergency, Isaacman and others will be able to take control of the spacecraft.
  • On completion, the Crew Dragon capsule will have a splashdown landing in the Atlantic Ocean and then be carried over by SpaceX boats to rescue the crew.

Some Lesser Known (Fun) Facts:

The Resilience Crew Dragon spacecraft doesn’t have much room for the crew to roam around.
There are no sleep pods like other space missions, so the crew will need to nap on their seats.
Isaacman and his team can also alter the route to see the Grand Canyon (just a hypothetical example) from up there if they wish to (according to what Elon Musk says).

Inspiration 4: The Timeline

Let us have a look at the timeline of the mission and how far has it gone yet.

SpaceX announced the mission on February 1, 2021.
A Super Bowl commercial video rolled out on February 7, 2021 inviting people to visit the Inspitation4 website and register to get a chance to be on-board.
SpaceX announced the final list of crew members on March 30, 2021 after the long-running competition got them the two final members.
The mission is set to launch on September 15, 2021 and return on September 18, 2021 (subject to change).

As the crew has been finalized, they are currently under rigorous training, preparing for their first ever flight to space in just about a month.

All About The Mission Crew

Before you get into the details of who will be on-board, you need to know that the Resilience Crew Dragon capsule only has seat capacity of four. All four seats in this mission will be filled by civilians who have been selected in different ways. The idea was that the selected members will represent 4 particular qualities (Leadership, Hope, Generosity and Prosperity). Let us find out who these lucky people are:

Jared Isaacman - “Genius Billionaire Playboy Philanthropist” - I bet you got that!
A 38-year-old billionaire and the CEO of a New York based payments company called Shift4 Payments. He is a highly experienced aviator and adventurer, with an astounding 6000 fighter jet flight-hours in his bucket.

This man is the reason this mission and the idea of having civilians on-board exists. He bought all 4 seats of the Crew Dragon capsule to fulfil his vision of having civilians from different walks of life through various modes of selection. However, Isaacman wanted one member from the St. Jude Children’s Hospital and that is who our next member on the list is.

Hayley Arceneaux - She is a child cancer survivor and a physician assistant at the St. Jude Children’s Hospital. In the search for the best suited employee from the hospital, Hayley was the most recommended one and hence she bagged the lucky seat. Her 29 years of age makes the entire crew more exciting and younger altogether.

She believes her cancer made her way to this mission and space. She also believes that having a prosthetic body part (a metal rod in her leg) doesn’t stop her from the mission, rather it sets an example that such people can also reach where she will be soon.

Christopher Sembroski - A 41 years old American data engineer, Iraq war Air Force veteran, and now a commercial astronaut. He contributed to the fund-raiser for the hospital, but couldn’t get the seat as the prize. Apparently, his best-friend won the prize but declined it and later recommended Sembroski for the mission. He definitely is lucky to be there!

He currently works at Lockhead Martin, an American aerospace company. He has always wanted to go to space and could not believe getting selected for the mission.

Sian Proctor - A 51 years young entrepreneur, an accomplished scientist, a geosciences professor and an explorer. She was also a part of the astronaut-selection process at NASA, but couldn’t get through. She is also the author of a book “Meal for Mars” and has been a part of several space research missions. She is

She was selected in a competition similar to Shark Tank where she flared her entrepreneurial skills and bagged the seat on the trip to space. She has always been a SPACE fan and her experience in the field makes her one of the most experienced people on board.

Let’s learn about their roles in the mission:

Jared Isaacman is the Spacecraft Commander of the mission and he symbolizes Leadership
Hayley Arceneaux is the Chief Medical Officer and she symbolizes Prosperity
Christopher Sembroski is the Mission Specialist and he symbolizes Generosity
Sian Proctor is the Pilot and she symbolizes Hope. She and Isaacman will be in charge of the spacecraft’s flight operations.

Preparation and Training

Selections are over and it’s time to get prepared for Space!
Before they began with the space-related training, Isaacman wanted the crew to have a taste of climbing a mountain.

I wanted them to get comfortable with being uncomfortable because not everything about space will be comfortable., says Isaacman about the team hiking at Mount Rainier at an altitude of 14,400 ft.

The crew is undergoing various training schedules as rigorous as 60 hours a week. During the process, they undergo medical tests, classroom lectures, and practical training sessions.

They are undergoing Centrifuge Training at the NASTAR center and the Altitude Chamber Training at the Duke Health in North Carolina.

Other training schedules at SpaceX include orbital mechanics, familiarizing with microgravity, and zero-gravity environments, emergency preparedness training, stress testing, mission simulations, and learning about the Falcon 9 launch vehicle and Dragon spacecraft.

Conclusion

By now, you know the necessary details of the mission. As it is evident, this is a very special mission, not just for the crew members but for humanity as it opens doors to new possibilities and dreams. It’s time you and I can dream of going to space one day. These missions, even if they will be open to the public, will be very expensive. But, it’s time to be excited about this mission and look forward to witnessing the first space flight launch with non-professional astronauts on board.