For the first time in history, an all-civilian crew orbits our planet. The four crewmembers are aboard Inspiration4, the SpaceX mission that launched a group of all civilians, four in total, have launched in a SpaceX capsule mission to orbit the planet. It’s the latest event in the commercialization of space. The Dragon Crew capsule they’re flying in, named Resilience, currently orbits the Earth at an altitude of up to 360 miles. This is far higher than Jeff Bezos’ flight earlier this month, which only reached an altitude of 47 miles.

The Inspiration4 mission launched on Wednesday at 8 p.m. EDT from Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The usual docking port at the nose of the Dragon Crew capsule was swapped out for an observation cuppoloa for the benefit of the crew, giving them an unhindered 360×180 degree view of space and the Earth below.

At 01:55 PM Pacific / 04:55 PM Eastern, the Inspiration4 crew will give us a live in-flight update, which you can watch here.

[su_note note_color=”#66d4ff” radius=”5″]Sian Proctor, the pilot, is the first Black woman ever to pilot a spacecraft.[/su_note]

The commander of the flight, Jared Isaacman, is the founder and billionaire CEO of Shift4 Payments. He is accompanied by Hayley Arceneaux, a physician assistant at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital; Chris Sembroski, an aerospace data engineer; and pilot and geoscientist Sian Proctor. The entire flight was Isaacman’s idea, part of a plan to raise $200M for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, which cares for children afflicted with cancer with no charge to their parents.

The mission, dubbed Inspiration4, will help support Isaacman’s goal to raise $200 million to help cure children’s cancer. While in orbit, the crew will also conduct research “designed to advance human health on Earth and during future long-duration spaceflights,” according to SpaceX.

The astronauts will land off the coast of Florida after approximately three days.

Since March, the Inspiration4 crew has completed centrifuge training, simulations, observing other SpaceX launches, zero-gravity plane training, altitude training, classroom training and medical testing, according to SpaceX.

“This focused preparation was essential in team development and being ready to execute their role as the first commercial crew to orbit the Earth,” the Inspiration4 website says.

Hayley Arceneaux, medical specialist on the Inspiration4 mission, in the Crew Dragon cupola.

Space Memorabilia

Space memorabilia is not a new thing. By taking personal items with them, astronauts convert otherwise ordinary objects into near-priceless historical artifacts. They’ve been doing this since the beginning of spaceflight. On this mission many items on board will be auctioned off to raise money for St. Jude’s.

For the first time, an NFT (nonfungible token) song, from the band Kings of Leon, will be played in space; 50 other art NFTs will also be present. Also on board will be 66 pounds of hops that, after coming back, will be used by Samuel Adams to brew the official beer of the Inspiration4 mission, a ukulele that Sembroski will play aboard the spacecraft and a recent Time magazine cover of the four crew members.


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