The Inspiration4 mission is about to set off to orbit, with perhaps the four most unusual space explorers in history.
Together, they will represent a milestone in space tourism, as the first ever human spaceflight to orbit by a crew entirely made up of private citizens. And they will represent a breakthrough for SpaceX, as it works towards its plans to make space travel somewhat cheaper and accessible to people who haven’t been through national selection programmes.
But individually they are remarkable too. They are made up of a billionaire business owner, a healthcare worker, another entrepeneur who was selected through a process something like Dragon’s Den, and a private engineer whose friend won a raffle and passed on their ticket.
The four of them will take a three day trip into orbit, going up into space, around the Earth and splashing back down in the ocean. As they do so they will undergo an experience that has never been available to private citizens before.
The funder of the mission is Jared Isaacman, a billionaire business owner who also trains as a pilot in his spare time. He made his money through financial services – he is the owner and chief executive of the company now called Shift4 Payments, which does payment processing – and has used some of the money he gained from establishing the company to train himself to fly jets.
He also used some of that money to buy the trip to space, the full cost of which has not been announced. In doing so, he got access to a ticket for himself but also three others, and the option to choose how those tickets would be distributed.
Two of them were to be sold off to raise money for St Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, which offers free healthcare to families dealing with childhood cancer as well as doing research to help fight it.
The first of those was given to someone who symbolises the work the hospital does. Hayley Arceneaux is a bone cancer survivor who was treated at the hospital, and then went on to work as a physician assistant there too.
The 29-year-old will break a number of records during her journey, including being the youngest American in space. She was set to be the youngest person in space, but was beaten to that by the 18-year-old Oliver Daeman whose father bought him a seat on Jeff Bezos’s rocket.
The other St Jude’s seat was raffled in an attempt to raise more money for the hospital. That seat was not originally won by Christopher Sembroski – instead, he was given it by a friend who transferred it to him, apparently in recognition of his longstanding interest in space.
The last seat will go to Sian Proctor, which those behind Inspiration4 describe as a “geoscientist, explorer, and science communication specialist with a lifelong passion for space exploration”. She has got close to space many times before: she has participated in four “analog” missions, during which people live in simulated space conditions as part of studies, as well as getting to be a finalist for the Nasa astronaut programme in 2019.
But it’s not those accomplishments that actually got her seat on the trip. Instead, she was given the one that was designated for a customer of Shift4 Payments – Mr Isaacson’s company – through a competition that encouraged people to design an online store as well as sharing messages through social media.
The four members of the crew have each been given values that they will represent on their journey, each of them related to how they got their ticket for the trip. Mr Isaacman is “Leadership”, Dr Proctor is “Prosperity”, Ms Arceneaux is “Hope” and Mr Sembroski is “Generosity”.
Each of the four have also been given positions, or titles, during the mission, though their primary role is as tourists. Mr Isaacman will be the commander of the spacecraft, Dr Proctor will be its pilot, Ms Arcenaux is its chief medical officer, and Mr Sembroski has the position of mission specialist.
And they also each have call signs by which they’ll be known. Mr Isaacman is Rook, Dr Proctor is Leo, Ms Arcenaux is Nova and Mr Sembroski is Hanks.
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies