Explainer: 4 will orbit Earth on first SpaceX private flight

Cape Canaveral, Fla. – For the first time in 60 years of human space flight, a rocket is set to explode into orbit with no professional astronauts, only four tourists.

Set to launch Wednesday night from Kennedy Space Center, the two men and two women will fly 100 miles (160 kilometers) above the space station, aiming at an altitude of 357 miles (575 kilometers) above Hubble’s current position. space telescope.

In contrast, Virgin Galactic’s Richard Branson and Blue Origin’s Jeff Bezos skimmed space briefly during their short ride in July – Branson reached 53 miles (86 kilometers) while Bezos reached 66 miles (106 kilometers) up. .

As a beneficiary of private flight, Jared Isaacman sees it: “It’s the first step toward a world where ordinary people can go and venture among the stars.”

A look at spaceflight, called Inspiration 4:

billionaire search

Isaacman’s idea of ​​fun is to fly fighter planes and harmonize with the Thunderbirds of the Air Force. He dropped out of high school and started his own payment-processing company, Shift 4 Payments, in Allentown, Pennsylvania. He entered aviation, founding Draken International for Tactical Aircraft Training. Although he would not specify what he was paying for the flight, Isaacman acknowledged the “meaningful debate” over whether the wealthy should spend their fortunes fixing problems on Earth, versus sightseeing in space. Travel. But he argues that investing in space now will cost less in the future. “Because it’s so expensive, space has been the exclusive domain of the world superpowers and the elite they choose,” he told the Associated Press last week. “It just shouldn’t stay that way.” When he announced the flight in February, he pledged $100 million to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and aimed to raise $100 million in donations.

the luck of the draw

Isaacman offered St. Jude one of four capsule seats, who offered it to physician assistant Hayley Arsinaux, a former patient who now works at the hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. Now 29, Arsinox was 10 years old when he was diagnosed with bone cancer, and his left thigh bone was replaced with a titanium rod. She will be the first person to go into space with a prosthesis, which is “proud to pave the way for people who are not physically perfect.” She will also be the youngest American in space, surpassing the late Sally Ride, who in 1983 at the age of 32 became the first American woman to go into space. The winners of the competition claimed the last two seats. Sean Proctor, 51, a community college teacher in Tempe, Arizona, and former geology instructor, beat out 200 other Shift4 paying clients with his space-themed artwork business. As a pilot, she was a NASA astronaut finalist more than a decade ago. Chris Sambrowski, 42, a data engineer and former Air Force missileman from Everett, Washington, entered an open lottery by donating to St. Jude. He didn’t win but a friend from his college days got him the win and gave him the slot.

training like astronauts

The tornado has come since the four came together in March. He raised Washington’s Mount Rainier in the snow, sampled brief bursts of weightlessness in the modified aircraft and took rapid, fast spins in fighter jets and centrifuges. “I know my prosthesis can now handle 8G of force,” Arsinox told the AP. His only compromise: SpaceX had to adjust its capsule seat to relieve that knee pain. Although the capsule is fully automated, the four rehearsed launch, reentry and other important tasks in the SpaceX capsule simulator. “We definitely had some Apollo 13-like simulation ride home where almost everything was broken, and everyone made it back. So I think we passed all the tests,” Isaacson said. Admittedly, the four are impressed by SpaceX’s focus on safety and reusability, but Sambrowski said his wife, a schoolteacher, would celebrate until the splashdown.

Private vs. NASA Missions

This is SpaceX’s first private flight and the company is running the show – NASA not involved. So SpaceX is offering its own facilities for private passengers to sleep, eat and walk around before launch, and arrive in their white-and-black-trim flight suits. The Lease launch pad used by SpaceX is the same one used by the Apollo moonwalkers, shuttle astronauts and all three previous NASA employees. And at the end of the mission, they will splash down the Florida coast just like their predecessors. Pandemic is limiting audiences again: St. Jude is withdrawing its launch delegation with actor Marlo Thomas, whose father Danny Thomas founded St. Jude, his trip to Florida with husband, talk show host Phil Donahue cancelled.

three days later

Isaacman and SpaceX settled on the sweet spot for orbiting Earth in three days. This gives him and his fellow travelers plenty of time to take views through a custom bubble-shaped window, take blood samples and perform other medical research, and auction items to benefit the hospital. While huge for a capsule, the Dragon offers virtually no privacy; Only one curtain shields the toilet. Unlike the space station and NASA’s older shuttles, there are no galleys or sleeping compartments, or even separate work areas. For food, they’ll consume cold pizza after liftoff. They’re also packing ready-to-eat, astronaut-style fare.

space tourism is on the rise

Space tourism has never been hotter. Branson and Bezos launched their companies’ rockets into space to fulfill lifelong dreams, but also to drive ticket sales. Too busy to launch himself, SpaceX founder Elon Musk has two tourist flights to the space station coming next year — the first in early January — and a private moon in the works. The businessmen who spent $55 million to take SpaceX to the space station won’t be the first to make their way there. Seven wealthy clients of Virginia-based Space Adventures flew Russian rockets to the space station from 2000 to 2009. Isaacman traveled to Kazakhstan in 2008 to see one of them fly high: Richard Garriott, the video game-developing son of the late NASA astronaut Owen Garriott. . Ever opposed to space tourism, NASA is rooting for these newcomers. “I can’t wait for them to fly and fly safely and fly often,” said Phil McAllister, NASA’s commercial spaceflight director.


The Associated Press Department of Health and Science receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. AP is solely responsible for all content.


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