SpaceX has launched what it is deeming as the “world’s first all-civilian” crew into orbit as part of its Inspiration4 mission.
The Falcon 9 rocket lifted off from a launchpad at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center at 8.02pm ET, 15 September 2021, and will now orbit Earth for roughly three days at an altitude of 575 kilometres — just above the Hubble Space Telescope and 155 kilometres further from the International Space Station.
On board the company’s fully automated Crew Dragon spacecraft are four crew members: Shift4 Payments founder and CEO Jared Issacman, cancer survivor Hayley Arceneaux, geoscientist Sian Proctor, and aerospace employee Chris Sembroski. They each underwent six months of training prior to launch.
During their time in space, the crew will perform “carefully selected research experiments on human health and performance” that will be used for potential applications for human health on Earth and during future spaceflights, SpaceX said.
“We are proud that our flight will help influence all those who will travel after us and look forward to seeing how this mission will help shape the beginning of a new era for space exploration,” Issacman said.
Noticeably absent from the flight is SpaceX founder and tech billionaire Elon Musk. This is unlike Amazon founder Jeff Bezos who jumped on board Blue Origin’s first crewed space launch and Richard Branson when he boarded Virgin Galactic’s VSS Unity in July.
Between the three tech billionaires, it has been a head-to-head race to see whose aerospace company would be the first to make space travel available to paying civilians, not just for professional astronauts.