Four people are set to become the world’s first all-civilian crew to fly into Earth orbit when they blast off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Wednesday as space tourism takes its biggest leap yet.
Weather conditions are 70% favorable for Wednesday night’s scheduled launch of Americans Jared Isaacman, Hayley Arceneaux, Chris Sembroski and Sian Proctor from the U.S. spaceport’s historic Launch Pad 39A, which was used for the Apollo moon missions during the 1960s and 70s.
The four-member crew will fly into space aboard the Crew Dragon spacecraft built by SpaceX, the privately-run company which has begun sending astronauts to the International Space Station. The fully automated Crew Dragon spacecraft will take the crew to an altitude of 575 kilometers above the Earth’s surface, just above the current positions of both the ISS and the Hubble Space Telescope.
SpaceX said the four space tourists will “conduct scientific research designed to advance human health on Earth and during future long-duration spaceflights” before splashing down in the Atlantic Ocean near the Florida coast three days later.
The mission, dubbed Inspiration4, will be led by the 38-year-old Isaacman, a billionaire technology entrepreneur and founder of an online payment-processing company who is said to have paid SpaceX several million dollars for the flight. The 29-year-old Arceneaux is a childhood bone cancer survivor who has a titanium rod in her leg, which makes her the first person to fly in space with a prosthesis. Sembroski is a 42-year-old retired U.S. Air Force ballistic missile maintenance engineer who now works in the aviation industry, while 51-year-old Proctor is a geoscientist and community college professor who was a NASA astronaut finalist in 2009.
Sembroski and Proctor were selected through a nationwide search contest, while Arceneaux is flying as a representative of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, where she was treated during her battle with cancer and now works as a physician’s assistant. Isaacman is using the flight to raise $100 million for St. Jude, and has pledged $100 million of his own money to the hospital.
Isaacman’s flight will far exceed those of fellow billionaires Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos, who each took brief non-orbital flights to the edge of space aboard their own self-financed vehicles — Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin, respectively — earlier this year.
Some information for this report came from the Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France Presse.