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SpaceX to launch first fully civilian flight into Earth orbit

If successful, this will be the greatest distance a civilian has traveled from Earth.

The first fully civilian flight to Earth orbit is expected to launch on Wednesday.

The Inspiration4 crew said goodbye to their families, got dressed, and were driven to Teslas to historic Kennedy Space Center pad 39A on Wednesday afternoon, before a five-hour launch window starting at 8 p.m. 2:02 am ET for SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket.

SpaceX’s Inspiration4 mission is the third recent space launch backed by a billionaire, but it goes where neither Richard Branson nor Jeff Bezos could – in orbit.

If successful, the Inspiration4 crew will achieve the greatest distance a civilian has traveled from Earth. They will orbit 360 miles above Earth, even farther than the International Space Station, which orbits 240 miles.

The mission commander is 38-year-old billionaire Jared Isaacman, an experienced pilot. He founded a payment processing company called Shift4 Payments and purchased all four seats on the flight for an estimated $ 220 million.

Isaacman wants this launch to benefit St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. He has already donated $ 100 million to the cause.

A seat was reserved for St. Jude Ambassador Hayley Arceneaux, 29. Arceneaux is a bone cancer survivor and will be the youngest American to go to space as well as the first pediatric cancer survivor.

The third occupant will be Dr Sian Proctor, 51, who said she has dreamed of going to space since childhood. She burst into tears when she learned that she had been chosen as a member of the Inspiration4 mission.

She will become the fourth black female American astronaut to travel in space.

The final member of the crew is Chris Sembroski, 41, an Iraq War veteran and engineer at Lockheed Martin, who won the final seat in a lottery that required a donation from St. Jude to participate.

The four will orbit the Earth for three days with no defined destination. They said they will conduct science experiments on board and auction items in space for St. Jude.

There is always a risk of launching into space and coming home. Although these passengers were trained by SpaceX, they are not professional astronauts.

The SpaceX Crew Dragon will also be tested for the first time over this distance.

They cannot go more than three days without running out of fuel, food and water. And while past missions might make changes on the return trip due to bad weather on Earth from the astronauts on board, this ship won’t have as much flexibility.

After three days in orbit around Earth, they will prepare for ditching in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Florida late Saturday or early Sunday.