SpaceX launches first all-civilian crew into orbit without professional astronauts

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SpaceX launched four ordinary citizens into orbit Wednesday night with no professional astronauts along for the ride, an unprecedented feat within the history of spaceflight. The five-hour launch window for Inspiration4 opened at 8:02 p.m. ET for launch from Launch Complex 39-A at the Kennedy Space Center. Sitting atop the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket are four private citizens during a specially modified Crew Dragon capsule awaiting to start out three days of orbiting the world, the primary time an all-civilian crew will have orbited the earth.

Rather than just climbing to the sting of space and returning to land in but an hour as Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin recently did, Inspiration4 will circle the world and do so during a higher orbit than the International space platform. Paying for it all is Jared Isaacman, a 38-year-old billionaire high-school dropout, who is promoting the flight like a huge fundraising effort for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Isaacman, a pilot who is qualified to fly commercial and military jets, reached an effect SpaceX in late 2020 for the mission. Neither is saying what proportion he’s paying SpaceX for the launch, though Isaacman has said it had been far but $200 million he hopes to boost for St. Jude.

“This dream began 10 months ago,” Isaacman said at a press conference Tuesday, noting how quickly the mission came together. “We began from the beginning to deliver a really inspiring message, certainly the opportunities up in space and what is often done there. But also what we will accomplish here on Earth.” SpaceX and Isaacman unveiled their project to the planet during a TV ad that ran during the Super Bowl in February encouraging people to use it for the mission.

Netflix is additionally documenting the team’s preparation and flight for a series on its platform. While “Countdown: Inspiration4 Mission to Space” is labeled a documentary series, it’s more like reality television than a Ken Burns film. Video cameras appeared to are omnipresent around the crew for months, capturing everything from the instant the crew members first acknowledged they were headed to space (via Zoom calls during which reactions varied from shock to tears) to them sharing the news with friends and family to a visit to Kennedy Space Center to go to the launch pad where they’re going to explode. It even includes video footage of Arceneaux as a 10-year-old patient at St. Jude.

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