SpaceX launches all-civilian crew into orbit
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The Inspiration4 crew blasted off into space in the wee morning hours of Thursday, launched aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. The crew of four will spend three days circling the planet on a mission that caps off a summer full of spaceflight milestones. While in orbit, the newly-minted astronauts will perform a number of scientific experiments that will test the human body’s reaction to being in space.
Early on Thursday, SpaceX shared a breathtaking video captured aboard the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft.
The video highlights the view seen from the spacecraft’s modified cupola observation module – a domed window that offers a 180-degree view of space.
And just behind the spacecraft, you can see the striking blue colour of Earth as it sits in stark contrast to the dark expanse of space.
Civilians have been flying into space all summer this year but the Inspiration4 mission has taken space tourism to a whole new level.
When billionaires Sir Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos launched into space aboard their Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin spacecraft in July, they only flew on brief, suborbital flights.
The SpaceX mission, however, will take the four astronauts on an extraordinary three-day journey around the globe, after reaching its target altitude of about 360 miles (575km).
That is higher than the International Space Station (ISS) and about as high as the Hubble Space Telescope.
Even more incredibly, new astronauts Jared Issacman, Hayley Arceneaux, Sian Proctor and Chris Sembroski only had six months of preparation for the flight, with no prior astronaut training.
Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX president, hailed the crew of four and said on Thursday SpaceX is paving the way for a world where space becomes “more accessible to all who wish to go”.
She said: “We are so proud that they entrusted us to fly them.
“On behalf of all SpaceX employees, I want to thank the crew and their families for allowing us to be part of their historic mission.”
As part of the mission, the Inspiration4 crew is raising funds for St Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Tennessee, US.
Mr Issacman, the mission’s commander and billionaire entrepreneur, has vowed to donate half of the target £146million ($200million).
The charity goal is particularly poignant for Ms Arceneaux, 29, who works at the hospital and was treated there after being diagnosed with bone cancer at the age of 10.
As the astronauts blasted off into space, messages of support and congratulations flooded in from around the world.
Canadian astronaut and former ISS commander Chris Hadfield tweeted: “Congratulations to the world’s four newest astronauts.
“Well done to safely get them there, @SpaceX!”
Eric Berger, author of the SpaceX biography Liftoff, said: “Four human launches by SpaceX within 16 months of beginning crew operations is damned impressive.
“It’s not easy, but they made it look easy. Engineers, man.”
And Kathy Lueders, head of NASA’s human spaceflight programme, said: “Congratulations to the @SpaceX team on the successful launch of @inspiration4x!
“Your mission moves @NASA closer to our goal of becoming just one of many customers in the low-Earth orbit economy.”
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