Imagine getting a call saying that, if you want, you can join the rare group of less than a thousand humans who have not only visited space, but have orbited this planet. Oh, and the mission takes off in about six months.
That’s the call three Americans got earlier this year. And the deal wasn’t for the kind of 15 minute ride to the edge of space that we saw fromother Recently. We’re talking about a three-day stay in orbit, the kind of thing NASA astronauts spend their entire lives preparing for.
Sure, civilians have flown to the International Space Station before, but it usually required a personal fortune, a bit of influence, and months or even years of training. The idea of pulling people out of the dark, wonka-style, and into orbit has been the stuff of science fiction.
Up to now.
As I write this, medical assistant Hayley Arceneaux and data engineer Chris Sembroski, who had no reason for a year to expect they would ever visit space, are circling this planet roughly every 90 minutes.
They are joined by billionaire businessman Jared Isaacman and geologist Sian Proctor, who have experience as pilots but no experience in space flight.
The quartet constitutes the entire crew of billed as a fundraiser for St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, where Arceneaux was a patient as a child and now works as a medical professional., now in low Earth orbit. There is no professional NASA astronaut chaperone on board, just four space rookies navigating Earth, conducting research and making history. The mission is also
All of this is funded by Isaacman and made possible by SpaceX and its Crew Dragon autonomous spacecraft, the first new manned spacecraft (outside of China) we’ve seen since the space shuttle made its debut decades ago.
For fans of space, this is a big deal, but several billion other humans can be forgiven for wondering why it is important that another wealthy person financed a trip to space and invited some randos to travel.
Inspiration for whom?
First, it is important to remember that new methods of transportation have generally gone through the same process: trains and airplanes were elite experiences in the beginning and they revolutionized our lives. This suggests that the Inspiration4 crew might just be the first of many normal people to go to orbit or beyond. (SpaceX did not respond to a request for comment.)
Its next-generation starship could eventually be used for super-fast international flights in orbit, possibly with less carbon footprint than current commercial jets.
Inspiration4 lays the foundation for the idea of reaching orbit as a passive passenger and opening space for transportation and other potential uses.
If you believe, as I do, that expanding humanity’s footprint beyond our planet will likely improve life on our planet, Inspiration4 is an important milestone in that journey of generations.
I’m not sure about thator that living in orbiting space stations will be practical in the short term.
But I do know a few things: industrialization on Earth often occurs to the detriment of the planet’s delicate ecosystems, and some of that industry could move into space. Billionaires in space today could be the first step toward orbiting factories or power plants tomorrow that help us finally mitigate climate change.
Additionally, the original space race of the 1950s to 1970s not only landed people on the moon, it spawned a ton of innovation that underpins our current civilization.
theThat gets you where you need to go and our satellite-based society that moves all kinds of information around the world at the speed of light can be traced directly to the Mercury and Apollo programs and the founding of NASA.
It’s exciting to imagine what parts of daily life in 2050 owe their importance to SpaceX and Inspiration4.
Finally, to the crew: come home safely, can’t wait to see all the photos.