Inspiration4 liftoff: SpaceX launches world’s first all-civilian mission into Earth’s orbit

Technology

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — SpaceX made history Wednesday night when it launched the world’s first all-civilian mission into orbit from Florida’s Space Coast.

The Inspiration4 mission lifted off from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center around 8:03 p.m. ET Wednesday. The four-person crew inside the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft was launched atop a reusable Falcon 9 rocket, which later separated from the spacecraft and landed on a drone ship.

The five-hour launch window for the mission opened at 8:02 p.m. ET. The window was so large because the crew was being sent to orbit the Earth, not to the International Space Station, and therefore didn’t have such strict time constraints.

The crew is set to travel 350 miles above Earth’s surface, about 100 miles higher than the International Space Station.

“Now this is significant and historic because it’s going to be the highest that any humans have gone to orbit since the Hubble servicing missions,” SpaceX Director of Human Spaceflight Benji Reed said.

(Photo provided by SpaceX)

The crew will now spend three days in orbit taking part in research experiments on human health and performance. The hope is the findings of the research will be applied to future spaceflights, as well as to human health here on Earth.

Inspiration4’s primary goal is to give back and inspire support for the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. They’re hoping to raise $200 million for St. Jude during the three-day mission.

Each of the four members of the crew were selected to represent the mission pillars of prosperity, generosity, hope and leadership, according to SpaceX. The Inspiration4 crew members and the pillars they represent are:

  • Leadership: 38-year-old Jared Isaacman – Shift4 Payments founder and CEO
  • Hope: 29-year-old Hayley Arceneaux – physician assistant and pediatric cancer survivor who was treated at St. Jude
  • Generosity: 41-year-old Chris Sembroski – U.S. Air Force veteran and aerospace industry employee for Lockheed Martin
  • Prosperity: 51-year-old Dr. Sian Proctor – entrepreneur, educator, trained pilot and active voice in space exploration community

SpaceX had all four crew members go through commercial astronaut training on the Falcon 9 and Dragon spacecraft. The crew was trained in orbital mechanics, microgravity, zero gravity and other stress testing as well as emergency preparedness and spacesuit training.

The mission was funded by Isaacman in a private transaction with SpaceX. Isaacman also committed $100 million of his own toward the mission’s fundraising goal for St. Jude.

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