What do we know about the first mission into space with non-professional astronauts

What do we know about the first mission into space with non-professional astronauts

Inspiration4 will start on September 15th with four non-professional astronauts. And it is not the only record of this initiative, which also aims to raise funds for cancer research

(photo: Inspiration4 Photos) Four non-professional astronauts in orbit for three days. The Inspiration4 space mission is something never done before. On September 15, Commander Jared Isaacman will step out of the atmosphere to enter history, along with Hayley Arceneaux, Chris "Hanks" Sembroski and Sian "Leo" Proctor. From ramp 39A of the Kennedy Space Center, in Cape Canaveral, from where the Apollo missions headed for the Moon, the four will reach on the Crew Dragon "Resilience" of SpaceX, the space company founded by Elon Musk, the operational orbit, about 580 kilometers from Earth, and there they will remain to carry out scientific experiments.

Inspiration4 will not only be the first mission to orbit "non-governmental civilians" around the Earth - in spite of the recent suborbital capatine by Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos - but, as its organizers claim, it will represent "a milestone, a new era for human flight in space and exploration ”. As bombastic as it may be, the statement does not lie about the primates and the peculiarities of a journey that promises to become a trailblazer. And for different reasons.

A mission of solidarity

The mission aims to "inspire support for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital" in Memphis, engaged in research into cancer in children, Isaacman explained. 38-year-old, an (estimated) $ 1.5 billion personal fortune, CEO of online payment company Shift4 and founder of Draken International, the largest private airline specializing in military pilot training, Isaacman bought from SpaceX the four space travel tickets at an undisclosed price, but rumored to be around $ 200 million. It is the same amount that the entrepreneur aims to raise through an auction in support of Inspitation4 and then donates it to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, to which he has already personally donated 100 million.

Isaacman is not new to "Unusual experiences". Provided that, like him, an unusual experience means that afternoon when, at the head of the acrobatic Black Diamond Jet Team, he risked crashing at 700 kilometers per hour on his L39 fighter. Little thing, in fact, when compared to a journey that witnesses an epochal turning point in access to space.

“I could have simply invited a group of my pilots, we would have had a lot of fun and once back we would have had a lots of cocktails, "he said in an interview with Time:" Instead, we wanted to engage ordinary people and energize everyone else around the idea of ​​opening space flight to more and more of us. "

Between business and research

Words of circumstance? Not only that: Inspiration4 will be the culmination of a summer that will be remembered as that of the space billionaires, but above all it will allow us to grasp their most extensive potential, reaffirming how the low earth orbit, that between 300 and a thousand kilometers of altitude, constitutes an area of scientific and business activities crucial to our life, here on Earth.

It is a conception of space that the many critics of the past few weeks, legitimately focused on the environmental impact of an increasing number of launches and exclusivity of travel (with a lot of sudden increase, by Virgin Galactic, in ticket prices, from 200 thousand to 450 thousand dollars), are likely to underestimate or ignore completely. A new approach in the way of understanding space.

First of all for its conception: announced with a 30-second commercial during Super Bowl 2021, Inspiration4 is also the first mission entirely paid for by a private individual, which space has sensed and exploited the exceptional communicative appeal. Driven by a desire to raise funds for the St. Jude, Isaacman decided that one of the seats on board would go to a hospital employee. Another would be awarded through a lottery, accessible with a donation of any size to the hospital. To grab the last seat on the SpaceX spaceship, it would have been necessary to win a competition, designing an online store built with Shift4 software, and develop a social campaign to share their space aspirations.

It's a perfect mix of philanthropy and marketing, which has allowed Inspiration4 to donate, to date, almost 14 million dollars to the hospital in Memphis (in addition to the 100 donated by Isaacman) and which has also been confirmed by the exclusive sale of the rights for the making of the first real-time documentary on a space mission. The film, made by Time Studios in collaboration with Known, is available from September 6 on Netflix, where it will also be possible to follow the live broadcast of the launch.

The poster of the documentary that, on Netflix, will feature Inspiration4 (image: Netflix)

The first person with a prosthesis in space

The participation of Arceneaux is also relevant, yet another record of Inspiration4: suffering from osteosarcoma at the age of 10, she was hospitalized and healed at St. Jude , where he now works as a medical assistant for patients suffering from leukemia or lymphoma. You will be the first person to fly into space with a prosthesis, an artificial left femur that replaces the bone lost due to childhood illness. Once in orbit Arceneaux will oversee most of the scientific experiments, for example, taking blood samples to study the microbiomes of the crews.

His participation is not a marginal fact, but the confirmation of the urgency of initiatives such as the recent "Para-Astronaut Project", a pilot program of the European Space Agency to calibrate training so that a a carrier or a disabled person contributes to space exploration.

Hayley Arceneaux during a Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama. He will be the first person with a prosthesis to fly into space (Photo: John Kraus / Inspiration4 Photos)

The rest of the crew

Chris Sembroski, 41, engineer at Everett's Lockheed Martin and Isaacman's lottery winner , is a veteran of the US Air Force, who served in Iraq and who in a subsequent national assignment helped oversee a fleet of “Minute-man” nuclear missiles.

The winner of the online competition is Sian Proctor, 51, former model, professor of geosciences at South Mountain Community College in Phoenix and two-time NASA astronaut candidate. In 2009, before being discarded, she was among the 47 finalists out of the more than 3,500 candidates. It will now go into orbit earlier than it could have if recruited by the US space agency.

The counter-narrative

The three crew members represent three values: hope, generosity and prosperity. A response to the skeptics of "space tourism" who point to these companies as a waste of money (criticism also addressed on the initiative's official website). On the contrary, Inspiration4 sees them as the vanguard of what space will be in the future: the convergence of science, culture and business opportunities. conflicting space interests increase problems rather than solve them. Inspiration4 reiterates that space will be the next frontier of the economy because, also thanks to tourism, the orbits around the Planet can be used for commercial purposes, will allow the exploitation of extra-atmospheric resources, or the relocation of industrial supply chains (this is the last real purpose, for example, of Bezos).

The dynamics of flight and the reusable means exploited by the space billionaires already today promise to train future professional astronauts, to test science and technology of laboratories and universities that until yesterday they could not afford to have their own experiment on the International Space Station. Virgin Galactic will testify once again at the end of September, when its SpaceShipTwo will fly with two Italian Air Force officers and a CNR scientist on board to do research in microgravity.

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