On Tuesday, a college science professor and an aerospace data analyst were appointed to complete a four-person crew for a SpaceX launch into orbit later this year, which would be the first all-civilian spaceflight in history.
SpaceX human spaceflight leader Benji Reed and wealthy entrepreneur Jared Isaacman, who developed the project in part as a charity drive, unveiled the two newest citizen astronauts at a news conference live broadcasted from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Isaacman, the founder and CEO of e-commerce company Shift4 Payments, is paying fellow billionaire and SpaceX owner Elon Musk an undisclosed but presumably exorbitant amount to launch himself and three others into orbit aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft.
From launch to splashdown, the flight, which is set to take place no sooner than September 15, is anticipated to take three to four days.
“When this mission is complete, people are going to look at it and say this was the first time that everyday people could go to space,” Isaacman, 38, told reporters.
The mission, dubbed Inspiration4, is specifically intended to raise awareness and support for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, a leading paediatric cancer centre, which is one of Isaacman’s favourite causes. He has made a personal donation to the institute of $100 million (roughly Rs. 735 crore).
Plans By SpaceX:
In collaboration with Houston-based private spaceflight company Axiom Space, SpaceX plans a concurrent launch of a retired NASA astronaut, a former Israeli fighter pilot, and two other individuals, probably next year.
In February, after assuming the position of mission “commander,” Isaacman named Haley Arceneaux, 29, a bone cancer survivor and former patient at the Tennessee-based hospital, as his first crewmate.
Chris Sembroski, 41, a Seattle-area aerospace industry employee and US Air Force veteran, was chosen from 72,000 applicants in a sweepstakes that has raised $113 million (roughly Rs. 830 crore) for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
Sian Proctor, 51, a geoscience professor at South Mountain Community College in Phoenix, Arizona, and businessman who was once a NASA astronaut nominee, was selected separately via Shift4 Payments’ online business contest.
All four will go through rigorous training similar to what NASA astronauts go through to prepare for SpaceX missions.
Musk also plans to sail Yusaku Maezawa, a Japanese billionaire, around the moon in 2023. The fees paid for those flights would go into Musk’s new heavy-lift Starship rocket, which will be used for missions to the moon and Mars.