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For the first time, SpaceX is sending private passengers into space on Wednesday, who are scheduled to spend three days orbiting Earth.
A SpaceX rocket is to send four passengers, all civilians, into space on Wednesday, September 15, for three days in orbit around the Earth. Called Inspiration4, this mission is the first in history to send only novices into orbit, without any professional astronaut on board.
Take-off should take place from 8:02 p.m., with a five-hour launch window and for the moment favorable weather. The Falcon 9 rocket, carrying the Dragon capsule at its top, will be propelled from the legendary launch pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, in Florida, from where the Apollo 11 mission took off for the Moon.
The four Americans on board must travel beyond the International Space Station (ISS), to a target orbit of 575 km. They will circumnavigate the globe about 15 times each day.
At the end of their journey, they will begin a dizzying descent to land off Florida, slowed down by huge parachutes.
“We realize how lucky we are”
The mission was chartered by billionaire Jared Isaacman, 38, a financial services company boss and seasoned pilot. The price he paid SpaceX has not been disclosed, but runs into tens of millions of dollars. He will be the captain on board, and offered three more seats to strangers.
Hayley Arceneaux, a pediatric cancer survivor, is a 29-year-old medical assistant. She will be the youngest American to go into orbit and the first person with a prosthesis (femur). Chris Sembroski, 42, is a former US Air Force employee now working in the aviation industry. Finally, Sian Proctor, a 51-year-old earth science professor, was almost selected in 2009 to become a NASA astronaut. She will be only the fourth African-American woman to go to space.
The stated goal: to operate a turning point in the democratization of space, by proving that the cosmos is also accessible to people who have not been handpicked, and trained for many years as astronauts. For SpaceX, this is nothing less than a first step towards a multiplanetary humanity, Elon Musk’s ultimate vision.
“We realize how lucky we are, and we try to be very thoughtful in our approach, in order to hopefully set the standard for the missions to follow,” Jared Isaacman said at a conference on Tuesday. Press. “It is just beginning.”
On board, their biological data (heart rate, sleep, etc.) as well as their cognitive capacities will be analyzed. They will also undergo tests before and after the trip, to measure the effect on their bodies.
Six months of training
Their training only lasted about six months. The flight would normally remain fully automated, but the crew has been trained by SpaceX to be able to take control in the event of an emergency.
They were also physically tested. Together, they notably made a trek in the snow up to more than 3000 meters of altitude in the American Northwest.
The mission also serves as a huge fundraiser for the pediatric hospital of St Jude (Memphis, Tennessee), where Hayley Arceneaux now works after being treated there as a child. In the vessel will be various objects (a ukulele, 30 kg of hops intended to make space-flavored beer on Earth, etc.) which will then be auctioned.
This mission concludes 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 Blue Origin company. But these flights only offered a few minutes in zero gravity.
This is the fourth time that the company of Elon Musk, which in just a few years has become a giant in the sector, has sent humans into space, after having transported ten astronauts to the ISS on behalf of NASA.
There have already been tourists in space: wealthy personalities, for example, visited the ISS between 2001 and 2009, aboard Russian rockets. But the advent of private enterprise programs today marks a turning point. SpaceX subsequently plans other space tourism flights, including one from January 2022, which will notably transport three businessmen to the ISS.