September 18, 2021

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SpaceX's latest mission will bring four people into orbit

SpaceX’s latest mission will bring four people into orbit

SpaceX’s latest mission will bring four people into orbit



One of them is a 29-year-old medical assistant who lives in Memphis. She is a cancer survivor and has metal rods in her left leg, replacing the bone destroyed by the tumor.

Another is a 51-year-old college professor from Phoenix, who has not fulfilled her dream of becoming a NASA astronaut.

The third is a data engineer who lives in western Washington and was once a camp consultant who had the experience of being an astronaut for children.

A fourth, 38, dropped out of high school and became the billionaire founder of a payment processing company. He’s the one paying for a trip to space that he’s never seen before, because no one on board is a professional astronaut.

This crew of four will go into space together and fire from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Wednesday at 20:02 ET on a SpaceX rocket. The planet will orbit three days higher than the International Space Station.

The mission, known as Inspiration4, is also the first in which the government is generally bystanders. It’s also more ambitious and dangerous than the one-minute spaceflights that two light-hearted people, Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos, took in July.

The trip shows that the average citizen, at least someone with two hundred million dollars and several months at their disposal, is currently basically able to rent a spacecraft to orbit the planet.

In this case, it’s Jared Isaacman, founder of Shift4 Payments, a company that processes payments for restaurants and other businesses. His public profile is much lower than that of Mr. Branson or Bezos.

While both traveled in spacecraft operated by the companies they founded, Mr. Isakman’s journey was propelled by SpaceX, a private company, Elon Musk, another billionaire whose company has expanded its space business over the past decade and realized what competitors believe is unnecessary. . while offering lower prices for access to space.

A trip like Inspiration4 is still only available to the wealthy. But this is no longer impossible.

When Mr. Isaacman decided to spend so much of his possessions, he only wanted a few friends to marry. Instead, he opened opportunities to three people he didn’t know.

The result was significant because the staff were representatives of the wider community – Healy Arsino, a 29-year-old assistant physician at Children’s Research Hospital St. Judah. Sian Proctor, 51-year-old black school teacher; and Christopher Sembrowski, 42-year-old data engineer.

“We’ve had the same training for all of these emergency procedures as any other NASA astronaut crew in the past,” Mr. Sembrowski said in an interview last week. It was the last day he and his colleagues spent at home before they left for Florida to start.

“I think we’re more than ready to go into space,” Sembrowski said.

The various life stories of the Inspiration4 crew present a stark contrast to Mr. Branson and Mr. Bezos, whose travels were considered by many to be enjoyable for billionaires.

“The world hasn’t seen how they benefit,” Temibe Aganapa, a professor of space and society at Arizona State University, said of the Branson, Bezossa Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin flights. “They were, this is just a playground for the rich.”

Mr. Isakman and his personal crew pursue the goal of science fiction authors and space enthusiasts: to open up space for everyone, not just professional astronauts and wealthy space tourists.

“The difference from this flight is that we have three very normal people on board and they will show us what it means to open this flight,” Dr. Ajnapa said.

Dr. Proctor, who learned to fly planes as part of her quest to become a NASA astronaut, turns out to be Ms. Arsino, a cancer survivor who will be the first person with a prosthetic limb to travel to space. She said it broadens people’s perception of who an astronaut could be.

“This is one of the reasons why acting is so important,” said Dr. Proctor, who will be the first black woman to serve as a spaceship captain. “Access is important.”

The mission also reflects the growing role of private enterprises in space.

“It’s part of the transition from low Earth orbit to private sector activities that NASA has been pushing for years,” said John M. Logsdon, founder and former director of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University. “Because it includes people, it’s visible. But it’s basically just part of a larger movement.”

The mission uses the same Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon capsule developed by SpaceX to transport NASA astronauts to and from the International Space Station. In fact, the capsule that sends Mr. Isaacman and his companions into Earth orbit is exactly the same capsule called Elastic that was used on NASA’s mission, which was launched last November. Then she returned to Earth in May.

For Inspiration4, Mr. Isaacman provided the names of the four spaceships available aboard the spaceship to represent the qualities he hoped the mission would represent: leadership that was to him, and hope, generosity, and prosperity to his fellow passengers.

When he decides to use the trip to raise money for St. Judd, who provides free pediatric oncology care, asked the hospital to nominate its first health care worker to represent hope. Hospital officials introduced Ms. Arceneaux. The vineyard, owned by Mr. Sembrowski, raised money for St. Jude through a lottery. Then Mr. Isaacman’s Shift4 announced a business ideas competition, and Dr. Proctor won a huge seat Create a space art store Working.

However, I note that Mr. Isakman paid all the bills, including the Super Bowl ad in February, which presented the mission to the Americans.

Mr. Isaacman declined to say how much he was paying, saying only that it was less than the $200 million he hoped to raise for Saint. good.

“We are still very far from letting normal people into the space,” said Dr. Agnapa.

The four were in the spotlight as they prepared for the trip, including the father. Documentary on Netflix, a TIME magazine special issue a Axios podcast.

In the Netflix documentary, Ms. Arceneaux invited friends to watch the Super Bowl – a small get-together with the film crew. “I told my friends I had a really big secret,” she said.

Her friends thought she was going to be a contestant on The Bachelor. When an ad for Inspiration4 aired, “Someone joked, ‘Oh, are you going to space? Then I said, ‘Yeah, I’m already going to space. “

In March, the four intense experiments began, including spinning around a massive centrifuge in Pennsylvania, to cope with the crushing forces during take-off and landing. They flew in a plane that simulates a free fall experience.

They also spent 30 hours simulating a SpaceX kite crew and working on contingency plans for several emergencies.

“The moment it started, and all that time, it passed very quickly,” Mr. Isakman said. “We said to ourselves, ‘We’ll do it again.'”

They did it again with another 10 hour simulation.

Ms. Arsinoe will act as a physician during the flight and will conduct a small survey of the crew during the flight. Dr. Proctor serves as a pilot, although the spacecraft is largely flying alone. Mr. Sembrowski as a mission specialist will have various responsibilities, while Mr. Isakman is the flight manager.

It could take years for anything else to be released, like Inspiration4. The cost of seeing Earth from orbit will still be much higher than most people think. And the effort is so perilous that many observers have reported the death of Christy McAuliffe, the teacher who was aboard the Challenger spacecraft when it crashed during takeoff in 1986. It’s a far cry from a commercial flight and more like an orbital vehicle to climb Mt. Everst top.

Roger D. said, “It’s basically a fun ride that people take once in a while.”

However, this opportunity represents a major transformation.

For decades, astronauts were usually government employees – people who worked for NASA or the Soviet space program who launched rockets operated by their government.

During the Obama administration, NASA decided to hire private spacecraft companies to fly to the space station. She chose Boeing and SpaceX for this position.

SpaceX, which has used the past decade to send goods to the space station, has taken a dominant market share in commercial satellite launches with its Falcon 9 rocket.

NASA hopes the federal investment in the Crew Dragon capsule will similarly stimulate a larger market to get people into space. However, this path remains uncertain. Currently, non-professional space travelers are divided into two groups: people who have a lot of money and people who work in the field of entertainment.

Axiom Space is set to take off in Houston early next year with a SpaceX flex capsule. The mission will take three people, each paying $55 million, to visit the International Space Station, which lasts several days.

Discovery Channel’s Reality TV Contest “Who Wants to Be an Astronaut?” A trip to the space station on a later mission from Axiom presents a prize.

The Russian Space Agency has also resumed selling seats on its Soyuz rockets for space station flights. In October, Russian actress Julia Peresild and director Klim Shpenko can go to the space station to shoot movie scenes. A few months later, they could be followed by Yusaku Maezawa, a Japanese fashion entrepreneur.

Mr. Maezawa’s 12-day trip will be an introduction to A more ambitious voyage around the moon, hopes to begin In a few years The massive SpaceX Starship rocket Currently under development. That flight called Dear Moon is perhaps the soul closest to Inspiration4. The competition to select the eight people who accompanied it attracted one million applicants, and Mr. Maezawa is currently screening the finalists.

Before the flight, the crew said during a press conference Tuesday in the SpaceX hangar at the Kennedy Space Center that they were confident and not worried before getting started.

“I always feared this moment would never happen in my life, so I’m ready to go,” said Dr. Proctor. “Let’s go.”

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