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Inspiration4: 4 tourists will circle the earth on the 1st SpaceX private flight

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida – For the first time in 60 years of manned flight, a rocket is about to enter orbit without professional astronauts on board, just four tourists.

SpaceX’s first private flight will be led by a 38-year-old entrepreneur who is funding the entire trip. He takes two competition winners with him on a three-day world tour, as well as a healthcare worker who survived childhood cancer.

They will ride alone in a fully automated Dragon capsule, the same type that SpaceX uses to send astronauts to and from the International Space Station for NASA. But the chartered flight will not get there.

Scheduled for a Wednesday night launch from the Kennedy Space Center, the two men and two women will soar 160 kilometers above the space station, aiming for an altitude of 575 kilometers, just above Hubble’s current position. Space telescope.

In contrast, Virgin Galactic’s Richard Branson and Blue Origin’s Jeff Bezos briefly roamed space on their short trips in July – Branson reached 86 miles while Bezos reached 106 miles.

As private flight benefactor Jared Isaacman sees it: “This is the first step towards a world where ordinary people can go and venture among the stars.”

A glimpse of spaceflight, dubbed Inspiration4:

THE QUEST FOR THE BILLIONAIRE

Isaacman’s idea of ​​fun is to fly fighter jets and follow Air Force Thunderbirds. He dropped out of high school and started his own payment processing business, Shift4 Payments in Allentown, PA. He got into aviation and founded Draken International for tactical aircraft training. Although he does not disclose what he pays for the flight, Isaacman acknowledges the “valid debates” over whether the wealthy should spend their fortunes on solving problems on Earth, rather than sightseeing in it. ‘space. But he argues that investing in space now will cut costs in the future. “Because it is so expensive, space has been the exclusive domain of the world superpowers and the elite they select,” he told The Associated Press last week. “It shouldn’t stay that way.” When he announced the theft in February, he pledged $ 100 million to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and aims to raise an additional $ 100 million in donations.

LUCK IN THE DRAW

Isaacman donated one of the four capsule seats to St. Jude, who donated it to medical assistant Hayley Arceneaux, a former patient who now works at the hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. Now 29, Arceneaux was 10 when she was diagnosed with bone cancer and much of the bone in her left thigh was replaced with a titanium rod. She will be the first person in space with a prosthesis, proud to lead the way for “those who are not physically perfect”. She will also be the youngest American in space, beating the late Sally Ride, who became the first American woman in space in 1983 at the age of 32. The winners of the competition won the last two seats. Sian Proctor, 51, a community college teacher in Tempe, Ariz. And a former geology professor, has beaten 200 other Shift4 Payments clients with her space-themed art business. Also a pilot, she was a NASA astronaut finalist over ten years ago. Chris Sembroski, 42, data engineer and former Air Force missile launcher from Everett, Wash., Entered an open lottery by donating to St. Jude. He didn’t win, but a friend from his college days did and gave him the slot.

TRAIN LIKE ASTRONAUTS

It’s been a whirlwind since the four got together in March. They climbed Washington’s Mount Rainier in snow, sampled brief bursts of weightlessness aboard modified planes, and performed intense, rapid spins in fighter jets and centrifuges. “I know my prosthesis can now withstand 8 G of force,” Arceneaux told the AP. Its only compromise: SpaceX had to adjust its capsule seat to relieve the pain in that knee. Although the capsule is fully automated, the four spent time in the SpaceX capsule simulator rehearsing the launch, reentry, and other critical operations. “We definitely had Apollo 13-style simulation feedback back home where pretty much everything was broken, and everyone came back. So I think we passed all the tests,” Isaacson said. While acknowledging the risks, the four are impressed with SpaceX’s focus on security and reuse. But Sembroski said his wife, a schoolteacher, would delay the celebration until the landing.

PRIVATE MISSION AGAINST NASA

This is SpaceX’s first private flight and the company is running the show – NASA is not involved. SpaceX is therefore providing its own facilities for private passengers to sleep, eat and relax before launch, and to enter their white flight suits with black trim. The rented launch pad used by SpaceX is the same one used by Apollo moon walkers, shuttle astronauts, and the previous three NASA crews. And at the end of the mission, they will descend off the coast of Florida, just like their predecessors. Pandemic again limits viewers: St. Jude cuts its launch delegation, with actor Marlo Thomas, whose father Danny Thomas, founded St. Jude, canceling his trip to Florida with her talk host husband -show Phil Donahue.

THREE DAYS UP

Isaacman and SpaceX set up over three days as the ideal point to orbit the Earth. This gives him and his fellow travelers enough time to take in the view through a custom bubble-shaped window, collect blood samples and conduct other medical research, and generate interest in them. auction items for the benefit of the hospital. Although roomy for a capsule, the Dragon offers virtually no privacy; only a curtain protects the toilets. Unlike the space station and older NASA shuttles, there are no galleys or sleeping compartments, or even separate work areas. As for the food, they will feast on cold pizza after take off. They also pack astronaut-style ready-to-eat meals.

SPACE TOURISM ON THE RISE

Space tourism has never been so hot. Branson and Bezos drove their company’s rockets into space to fulfill their lifelong dreams, but also to advance ticket sales. Too busy to get started, SpaceX founder Elon Musk has two sightseeing flights to the space station coming next year – the first in January – and also a private moonshot in the works. Businessmen spending $ 55 million each to transport SpaceX to the space station won’t be the first to pay their own way. Seven wealthy clients of Virginia-based Space Adventures drove Russian rockets to the space station from 2000 to 2009. Isaacman traveled to Kazakhstan in 2008 to see one of them take off: Richard Garriott, the video game developer son of the late NASA astronaut Owen Garriott. . While it was once opposed to space tourism, NASA supports these newcomers. “I can’t wait for them to fly and fly safely and fly often,” said Phil McAlister, director of commercial spaceflight at NASA.

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The Associated Press’s Department of Health and Science receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

Copyright © 2021 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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