CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - History was made on Wednesday as the world's first all-civilian crew launched into orbit aboard a SpaceX Dragon capsule.
SpaceX's Inspiration4 mission opened its five-hour launch window on Wednesday, September 15, at 8:02 p.m. EDT from Launch Complex 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. With no delays, the Falcon 9 rocket successfully lifted off as the crewed Dragon Resilience spacecraft sat on top.
The four-person crew includes a CEO, a cancer survivor, engineer, and professor.
Leading the crew as mission commander will be Gravity Shift4 payments founder and CEO Jared Isaacman. He started the company in 1999 from the basement of his family’s house when he was only 16 years old and now has around 1,200 employees. Isaacman is an accomplished pilot and picked up the entire bill for the space flight.
PHOTOS & VIDEOS: Images capture historic SpaceX Inspiration4 launch
"While a historic journey awaits us in space, I hope this mission reinforces how far inspiration can take us and the extraordinary achievements it leads to here on Earth," Isaacman said.
Hayley Arceneaux was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer, at just 10-years-old. She received chemotherapy and a limb-saving surgery from St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. She now works at St. Jude as a PA with leukemia and lymphoma patients. With this flight, she is officially the youngest American in space and the first person in space with a prosthesis, a titanium rod in her left leg.
Chris Sembroski served in the U.S. Air Force and deployed for service in Iraq before leaving active duty in 2007. He later earned a B.S. in Professional Aeronautics from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. Sembroski now resides in Seattle and works in the aerospace industry.
New Crew Members Representing Prosperity and Generosity Join Hope and Leadership to Complete the Crew Manifest. (Credit: Inspiration4)
Born in Guam, Dr. Sian Proctor is a geoscientist, explorer, and science communication specialist with a lifelong passion for space exploration. Her father worked for the NASA tracking station during the Apollo missions. Dr. Proctor has been a geoscience professor for over 20 years at South Mountain Community College in Phoenix, Arizona and is currently on reassignment as the Open Educational Resource Coordinator for the Maricopa Community College District.
During their 3-day journey in orbit, the Inspiration4 crew "will conduct scientific research designed to advance human health on Earth and during future long-duration spaceflights," SpaceX said.
Inspiration4, which will last for approximately three days, is targeting an altitude of about 360 miles, the farthest for any human since the Hubble Space Telescope repair missions. The crew will orbit Earth every 90 minutes along a customized flight path that will be carefully monitored by the aerospace company's mission control. Upon conclusion of the mission, Dragon will reenter Earth's atmosphere for a splashdown off the coast of Florida.
In addition to raising awareness for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Inspiration4 is looking to raise $200 million to accelerate research advancements and help save more children worldwide.
To help reach the goal, items from Inspiration4's payload will be auctioned off through November, including Inspiration4 mission jackets featuring unique artwork by St. Jude patients, 50 art NFTs from 50 different artists, 66 pounds of hops that, upon return, will be used to brew an out-of-this world beer by the brewers of Samuel Adams, and an autographed TIME Magazine cover from the four crew members.
For SpaceX founder Elon Musk, it is his first entry in the competition for space tourism dollars. Isaacman is the third billionaire to launch this summer, following the brief space-skimming flights by Virgin Galactic’s Richard Branson and Blue Origin’s Jeff Bezos in July.
FLORIDA, UNITED STATES - SEPTEMBER 15: A Falcon 9 rocket and a Crew Dragon capsule stand ready to launch at pad 39A at NASAâs Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Florida on September 15, 2021. SpaceX is scheduled to launch the first completely pr
The recycled Falcon rocket soared from the same Kennedy Space Center pad used by the company’s three previous astronaut flights for NASA. But this time, the Dragon capsule aimed for an altitude of 357 miles, just beyond the Hubble Space Telescope.
Their fully automated capsule has already been to orbit: It was used for SpaceX’s second astronaut flight for NASA to the space station. The only significant change is the large domed window at the top in place of the usual space station docking mechanisms.
Though the capsule is automated, the four Dragon riders spent six months training for the flight to cope with any emergency. That training included centrifuge and fighter jet flights, launch and reentry practice in SpaceX’s capsule simulator and a grueling trek up Washington’s Mount Rainier in the snow.
Four hours before liftoff, the four emerged from SpaceX’s huge rocket hangar four hours before liftoff, waving and blowing kisses to their families and company employees, before they were driven off to get into their sleek white flight suits. Once at the launch pad, they posed for pictures and bumped gloved fists, before taking the elevator up. Proctor danced as she made her way to the hatch.
Inspiration4 crew members to the crowd as they prepare to leave for their flight on the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon at launch Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on September 15, 2021 in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
Elon Musk, co-founder and chief executive officer of Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) and Tesla Inc., arrives ahead of the SpaceX Inspiration4 mission in Merritt Island, Florida, U.S., on Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021. A SpaceX rocket is set
CAPE CANAVERAL, FLORIDA - SEPTEMBER 15: Inspiration4 crew member Jared Isaacman kisses his wife Monica as he and Sian Proctor, Hayley Arceneaux and Chris Sembroski prepare to leave for their flight on the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon at lau
Unlike NASA missions, the public won’t be able to listen in, let alone watch events unfold in real time. Arceneaux hopes to link up with St. Jude patients, but the conversation won’t be broadcast live.
SpaceX’s next private trip, early next year, will see a retired NASA astronaut escorting three wealthy businessmen to the space station for a weeklong visit. The Russians are launching an actress, film director and a Japanese tycoon to the space station in the next few months.
Once opposed to space tourism, NASA is now a supporter. The shift from government astronauts to non-professionals "is just flabbergasting," said former NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, a former space shuttle commander.
"Someday NASA astronauts will be the exception, not the rule," said Cornell University’s Mason Peck, an engineering professor who served as NASA’s chief technologist nearly a decade ago. "But they’ll likely continue to be the trailblazers the rest of us will follow."
Watch live coverage of the Inspiration4 launch on FOX 35 News.