SpaceX sends all-civilian crew into orbit

SpaceX sends all-civilian crew into orbit

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying four space tourists blasted off Wednesday night from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida for the first mission to orbit the globe with an all-civilian crew.

A huge fireball illuminated the sky as the rocket’s nine engines began to pull away from Earth at 8:02 pm (0002 GMT Thursday).

Around 12 minutes later, the Dragon capsule separated from the rocket’s send stage as the crew entered orbit, while the re-usable first stage made its way back to Earth for a vertical landing on a sea barge.

“A few have gone before and many are about to follow,” said Jared Isaacman, the 38-year-old billionaire who chartered the flight.

The spaceship’s trajectory will take it to an altitude of 357 miles (575 kilometers), which is deeper into space than the International Space Station (ISS).

After spending three days spinning around the planet, the four-person crew, all Americans, will splash down off the Florida coast.

“The #Inspiration4 launch reminds us of what can be accomplished when we partner with private industry!” tweeted NASA administrator Bill Nelson ahead of the launch.

Building up commercial capability has been the vision of NASA’s commercial crew program since it was founded in 2011.

– Tough training –
SpaceX hasn’t disclosed what the trip cost Isaacman, a highschool dropout who went on to found Shift4 Payments and is also a keen aviator. But the price tag runs into tens of millions of dollars.

Isaacman’s three crewmates were selected through a competition, and their stories have been followed in a Netflix documentary.

Hayley Arceneaux, a pediatric cancer survivor, is a 29-year-old physician assistant. She will be the youngest American to go into orbit and the first person with a prosthesis, on a part of her femur.

Chris Sembroski, 42, is a US Air Force veteran who now works as an aerospace data engineer.

Sian Proctor, a 51-year-old geoscientist and educator, was almost selected to become an astronaut for NASA in 2009.

She is only the fourth African-American woman to go to space.

They bonded over the course of six months’ training that included climbing Mount Rainier, high G-force conditioning and experiencing a taste of weightlessness on a parabolic flight.

The mission is aiming to raise $200 million for St Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, a leading facility in Tennessee. Arceneaux received treatment there as a child, and now works there.

The crew will take with them various objects — a ukulele, hops intended to brew space beer and several digital assets known as non-fungible tokens — that will be auctioned off for the cause.

Throughout the flight, biological data including heart rate and sleep, as well as their cognitive capacities, will be analyzed to study the health impacts of space.

The Dragon is equipped, for the first time, with a cupola observation dome — the largest ever space window — to take in the view. The dome replaces the usual mechanism used on Dragons to dock with the ISS.

– Privatization of space –
Beyond the charitable and scientific aspects, the mission’s stated goal is to represent a turning point in the democratization of space, by proving that the cosmos is accessible to people who have not been handpicked and trained for many years as astronauts.

For SpaceX, this is nothing less than a first step towards a multi-planetary humanity — founder and CEO Musk’s ultimate vision.

The flight should remain fully automated, but the crew has been trained by SpaceX to be able to take control in the event of an emergency.

The space adventure bookends a summer marked by the battle of the billionaires Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos to reach the final frontier.

Branson, the Virgin Galactic founder, achieved the feat first, on July 11, and was followed by the Blue Origin boss nine days later.

But these flights only offered a few minutes of weightlessness. SpaceX’s mission is far more ambitious — though flights organized by a private company that contracted Russian Soyuz rockets in the 2000s took tourists to the ISS.

This is the fourth crewed mission for SpaceX, which has now sent 10

earlier reports
The weather seems cooperative and the passengers are raring to go: SpaceX’s first space tourists were a picture of calm Tuesday as they prepared to blast off on a three-day mission to orbit the Earth.

“No jitters, excited to get going!” American billionaire Jared Isaacman told reporters when asked his state of mind at a press conference.

Behind him towered the giant Falcon 9 rocket, which will carry the four-member, all civilian crew for the mission, dubbed Inspiration4.

“Any jitters are the good kind,” added 29-year-old physician assistant Hayley Arceneaux. “I’m just so excited for tomorrow to get here.”

Chris Sembroski, a 42-year-old Air Force veteran, even compared the extraordinary voyage to a “camper van” ride.

He’s not far off: the interior of the Dragon Capsule offers its occupants a cramped eight by four meters (27 by 13 feet) of space.

“You just wrap yourself in (sleeping bags) so you don’t float into each other during the middle of the night!” he joked.

They all said they got along well, even though they didn’t know each other before they started training only about six months ago.

Isaacman, who chartered the mission at his expense, ran a competition to choose the three joining him.

“Since the announcement… every day has been the best day of my life, and it’s only getting better,” declared Sian Proctor, a 51-year-old geology professor who will become the first African American woman to assume the role of “pilot” on a spaceflight.

Clearly moved by the occasion, she shared that she and the crew had had a phone chat with former first lady Michelle Obama.

“We had a very nice conversation that will stay with you for the rest of my life.”

A take-off window begins at 8:02pm Wednesday (0002 GMT Thursday).

“Right now, the weather is trending well,” said Benji Reed, chief of crewed missions for SpaceX.

In first, SpaceX to send all-civilian crew into Earth orbit
Kennedy Space Center, United States (AFP) Sept 15, 2021 – Can four people who’ve never been to space before spend three days spinning around Earth after only a few months of training?

That’s the challenge SpaceX has set for itself when it launches its first tourism mission on Wednesday, the first time a crew of exclusively private citizens will orbit our planet.

A five-hour launch window for “Inspiration4” opens from 8:02 pm (0002 GMT Thursday).

A Falcon 9 rocket, with a Dragon capsule at its top, will blast off from the legendary launch complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Center in Florida, from where the Apollo 11 mission took off for the Moon.

The spaceship’s trajectory will take it to an altitude of 575 kilometers (357 miles), deeper into space than the International Space Station (ISS).

At the end of their journey, the four Americans will splash down off the coast of Florida, their descent slowed down by huge parachutes.

The mission was paid for by Jared Isaacman, a 38-year-old high school dropout and founder of Shift4 Payments.

SpaceX hasn’t disclosed what it cost him, but the price tag runs into tens of millions of dollars.

“We understand how lucky and fortunate we are,” Isaacman told a press briefing Tuesday.

For the trip, Isaacman is bringing along three others selected through a competition.

Hayley Arceneaux, a pediatric cancer survivor, is a 29-year-old physician assistant. She will be the youngest American to go into orbit and the first person with a prosthesis, on a part of her femur.

Chris Sembroski, 42, is a former US Air Force employee who now works in the aviation industry.

Sian Proctor, a 51-year-old geology professor, was almost selected to become an astronaut for NASA in 2009.

She will be only the fourth African American woman to go to space.

– Physical training –

The stated goal: to represent a turning point in the democratization of space, by proving that the cosmos is accessible to people who have not been handpicked and trained for many years as astronauts.

For SpaceX, this is nothing less than a first step towards a multi-planetary humanity — Elon Musk’s ultimate vision.

On board, their biological data (including their heart rate, sleep), as well as their cognitive capacities, will be analyzed.

They will also undergo tests before and after the trip, to measure its effect on their bodies. Their training only lasted about six months.

The flight should remain fully automated, but the crew has been trained by SpaceX to be able to take control in the event of an emergency.

They were also put through their paces physically.

Together, they trekked through the snow to summit Mount Rainier, which stands 14,411-foot-tall (3000 meters) in the country’s northwest.

They also completed high G force training on a centrifuge — a long spinning arm — and jet flights.

As well as serving as a vehicle for SpaceX’s ambitions, the mission aims to raise $200 million for St Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, a leading facility in Memphis.

Arceneaux was treated there as a child, and now works there.

The crew will take with them various objects — a ukulele, 30 kilograms of hops intended to brew space beer, several non-fungible tokens — that will be auctioned off for this cause.

– Space tourism – The space adventure caps a summer marked by the battle of the billionaires Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos to reach the final frontier.

The Virgin Galactic founder achieved the feat first, on July 11, and was followed by the Blue Origin boss nine days later.

But these flights only offered a few minutes of weightlessness. SpaceX’s mission is far more ambitious.

This will be the fourth crewed mission for SpaceX, having now sent 10 astronauts to the ISS.

The company is already working on future tourism missions, including one in January 2022 to the ISS.

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