SpaceX reveals civilian passengers for trip into space this year

Dragon capsule will launch this autumn, aiming for an altitude of 540km – 120km higher than the ISS

Anthony Cuthbertson
Friday 02 April 2021 11:36 BST
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SpaceX has revealed the final members of its civilian crew who will take part in the first ever commercial space flight later this year.

The new passengers are Sian Proctor, a community college educator in Tempe, Arizona and Chris Sembroski, a former Air Force missileman from Everett Washington. They will join flight sponsor Jared Isaacman and another passenger for three days in orbit this autumn.

Mr Isaacman also revealed some details about his Inspiration4 mission, as the four gathered at Nasa’s Kennedy Space Center this week. He’s head of Shift4 Payments, a credit card-processing company in Allentown, Pennsylvania, and is paying for what would be SpaceX’s first private flight while raising money for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee.

Their SpaceX Dragon capsule will launch no earlier than mid-September, aiming for an altitude of 540 kilometres (335 miles). That’s 120 kilometres higher than the International Space Station and on a level with the Hubble Space Telescope.

Mr Isaacman, 38, a pilot who will serve as spacecraft commander, did not reveal how much he’s paying. He’s donating $100 million to St. Jude, while donors so far have contributed $13 million, primarily through the lottery that offered a chance to fly in space.

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Hayley Arceneaux, 29, was named to the crew a month ago. The St. Jude physician assistant was treated there as a child for bone cancer.

That left two capsule seats open. Ms Proctor, 51, beat out 200 businesses and nabbed the seat reserved for a customer of Mr Isaacman’s company. An independent panel of judges chose her space art website dubbed Space2inspire.

“It was like when Harry Potter found out he was a wizard, a little bit of shock and awe,” Ms Proctor told The Associated Press last week. “It’s like, ‘I’m the winner?’”

Private Spaceflight (SpaceX)

Mr Sembroski, 41, donated and entered the lottery but wasn’t picked in the random drawing earlier this month — his friend was. His friend declined to fly for personal reasons and offered the spot to Mr Sembroski, who worked as a Space Camp counsellor in college and volunteered for space advocacy groups.

“Just finding out that I’m going to space was an incredible, strange, surreal event,” he said.

Ms Proctor, who studied geology, applied three times to Nasa’s astronaut corps, coming close in 2009, and took part in simulated Mars missions in Hawaii. She was born in Guam where her late father — a “Hidden Figure” in her mind — worked at Nasa’s tracking station for the Apollo moonshots, including Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin’s.

She plans to teach from space and create art up there, too. “To me, everything that I’ve done... has brought me to this moment,” she said.

Other commercial SpaceX flights using the Dragon craft are expected to follow, before Elon Musk’s company begins operations of its Starship vehicle.

The next-generation space craft is still undergoing testing and is yet to land successfully after flying to a high altitude.

Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa has already reserved the first Starship tickets for a trip around the moon scheduled for 2023.

Additional reporting from agencies.

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