I was lucky enough to witness SpaceX launching US astronauts into space last June.  SpaceX has since launched 8 more astronauts to the International Space Station.

Tonight, I’m going to watch SpaceX launch more astronauts into space.  But this is a launch unlike any other.  For the first time ever, SpaceX will launch four civilians into orbit for a mission called Inspiration4.

Inspiration4

The mission is a multi-day orbital flight aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule to raise awareness and funds for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

A typical Crew Dragon launch begins at launchpad 39A (the same launch pad from which Apollo missions and the space shuttle departed) and ends roughly 23 hours later at the International Space Station.  This flight will be different.  Its destination is Earth, but it will take a few days (and fly over 90% of the Earth’s population on the way) to get there.

The vessel

The Crew Dragon is already resting upon a flight-used Falcon 9 rocket.  The crew visited the rocket at the Launchpad 39A integration facility as they trained for the launch.

The Falcon 9’s first stage will propel the rocket from launchpad 39A on its way to space, then, only 2 or 3 minutes later, separate from the second stage and the Crew Dragon capsule and return back and land on a waiting droneship in the Atlantic Ocean.  The second stage will ignite for another six minutes until its fuel is spent and the Crew Dragon capsule enters orbit.

The normal Crew Dragon capsule has a docking mechanism for connection to the International Space Station, but Inspiration4 will be different.  It will feature a custom-made cupola, a literal window to the universe for the astronauts to enjoy.

The crew

From left to right, here are the crew of Inspiration4:

Chris Sembroski is an Air Force veteran who has always been excited about space.  In addition to being a US Space Camp counselor, he helped lobby for space-positive legislation in Washington, D.C.  He resides in the Seattle, WA, area and works in aerospace to this day.

Dr. Sian Proctor has been a geoscience professor for over 20 years in Phoenix, Arizona.  She too has had a lifelong fascination with space exploration, contributing to simulated space missions, and is using this platform to encourage conversations about creating a just, equitable, diverse, and inclusive space for all humanity.

Jared Isaacman is a pilot, adventurer, and billionaire founder of a company called Shift4 Payments.  Though only 38 years old, Isaacman has accomplished quite a bit in his life.  Isaacman, though a civilian, will be the commander for Inspiration4.

Hayley Arceneaux knows the Inspiration4 mission very well.  When she was only 10 months old, doctors found that she suffered from osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer.  She was treated at St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital and made a full recovery.  She is now a physician’s assistant at St. Jude and was selected to show the face of the great work of St. Jude’s to the world.

The broadcast

Inspiration4 is scheduled to launch at 8:02pm EDT tonight.  SpaceX will broadcast the launch, with the festivities starting hours before at 3:45pm EDT at the link below:

 

As the world begins to explore what space travel means, I think this is an important and relevant topic for this blog.  Who knows, maybe our children or our children’s children will someday think of space travel as routine as I would think of popping over to a place like Finland for a weekend.  I hope you’ll tune in this evening, it is sure to be an incredible show!

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