SpaceX launches its first space tourism mission

SpaceX’s turn to embark on space tourism. A rocket from Elon Musk’s company is to propel, Wednesday, September 15, four passengers who will spend three days in space, a very ambitious mission which will be the first in history to send only complete novices into orbit, without any professional astronaut.

Called Inspiration4, this mission is to conclude a summer marked by the flight of billionaires over the last frontier: first Richard Branson on July 11, aboard the Virgin Galactic ship, then a few days later Jeff Bezos, with his company Blue Origin.

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The billionaire SpaceX tourist will be named Jared Isaacman, 38-year-old American, boss of a financial services company and seasoned pilot. But he did not found the company allowing him to make the trip. He simply rents the services, for a price that has not been disclosed but which runs into tens of millions of dollars.

Fly further than the International Space Station

Because the mission has nothing to do with the experience of just a few minutes offered by Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin. This time, it’s about going to fly further than the International Space Station (ISS).

“The risk is not zero”, Jared Isaacman recognizes in one of the episodes of the documentary released by Netflix on the mission. “You are traveling in a vessel at 28,000 km / h around the globe. This kind of environment is associated with some risk. “

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Elon Musk’s company has already transported no less than ten astronauts to the ISS on behalf of NASA. But they will be the first private passengers to board the Dragon capsule, launched by the Falcon 9 rocket.

Take-off is scheduled for Wednesday from 8 p.m. on the American east coast (2 hours in Paris). Another launch opportunity is planned for Thursday if weather conditions dictate a new launch window. Passengers will take off from the legendary launch pad 39A, at NASA’s Kennedy Center, Florida, from where the Apollo missions to the moon took off.

“Hope”, “generosity” and “prosperity”

In addition to Jared Isaacman, captain on board, three anonymous will be on the trip, selected by an original process that began with an advertisement projected during the halftime of the Super Bowl, an American sporting event. Each seat is meant to embody a value.

Hayley Arceneaux, survivor of pediatric cancer, represents the” hope “. She will be the first person with a prosthesis to make it to space – and surely the one least connected to this universe.

“Are we going to the moon?” “, she asked when the opportunity was presented to her. And after finding out that no: “Apparently we haven’t been there for decades!” It’s something I learned ”she laughs in the documentary.

Hayley Arceneaux, 29, was selected because she works as a medical assistant for St Jude Pediatric Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee.

The 29-year-old was selected because she works as a medical assistant at St Jude’s Pediatric Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee – a facility for which Jared Isaacman has launched a huge fundraiser.

One of the donors obtained the seat of the ” generosity “ : Chris Sembroski, 42, is a former US Air Force employee who now works in the aviation industry.

The last seat represents the “Prosperity”, and was offered to Sian Proctor, a 51-year-old earth science professor who, in 2009, almost became an astronaut for NASA. She will only be the fourth black woman to go to space.

Several months training

The crew has been training for several months. They experienced the acceleration to which they will be exposed through a centrifuge – a rapidly rotating arm of several meters. On board parabolic flights, they were able to taste a feeling of weightlessness. They also did a high altitude snow trek on Mount Rainier in the northwestern United States. Finally, they spent time on SpaceX premises, although the flight would normally remain fully automated.

During the three days in orbit, their sleep, heart rate, blood and cognitive abilities will be analyzed. Tests will be carried out before and after the flight, to study the effect of the trip on their body.

The idea is to accumulate data for future private passengers. Because the stated goal of the mission is to open the doors of space to a greater number – although these remain for the moment only partially open for a privileged few.

“In all of human history, less than 600 human beings have reached space”, Jared Isaacman recalled in a statement last month. “We are proud that our flight can help everyone who will fly after us. “

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The World with AFP

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SpaceX launches its first space tourism mission