Four civilians are ready to launch to space on Wednesday 8:02PM ET in a SpaceX capsule in a mission called Inspiration 4. None of them are professional astronauts, making this the first completely private mission to orbit.
The Inspiration 4 mission is a multimillion-dollar fundraiser for St. Jude Children’s Hospital—a nonprofit research facility and hospital that gives free care to children suffering from cancer. For Earthly spectators, it is also an effort to convey that space won’t always be limited to the rich and government officials.
A billionaire entrepreneur and philanthropist Jared Isaacman booked the Crew Dragon capsule last year and selected three people to ride with him. The crew includes a cancer survivor and physician assistant at St. Jude Hayley Arceneaux, a geology professor and former NASA astronaut candidate Sian Proctor, and a Lockhead Martin data engineer Christopher Sembroski.
The crew will launch to space atop SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket inside the Crew Dragon capsule, which had, almost a year ago, carried a four-person government astronauts’ crew to the International Space Station and back.
Isaacman, the commander of the flight,—who is a trained pilot and owns a payment processing company—said he wanted to have a diverse crew of people who weren’t billionaires. Isaacman paid for all four seats on Crew Dragon and donated the first $100 million of a $200-million fundraiser for St. Jude. Additionally, two of the seats are reserved for St. Jude: one for the winner of a fundraising campaign and the other for Arceneaux, who is the medical officer for the mission.
In orbit, the crew will view Earth through two windows and a newly added glass dome at the top of the capsule (the Crew Dragon’s ISS docking door was there earlier). After checking the weather around Florida, the crew will re-enter the atmosphere after three days and splash down in the Atlantic ocean. Following this, SpaceX recovery teams will hoist the capsule onto a ship and bring the crew ashore.