Hayley Arceneaux, medical assistant at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and a consultant for the Inspiration4 mission, in the Crew Dragon dome.
Inspiration4x / Twitter
Imagine receiving a phone call telling you that you can join the rare group of fewer than a thousand people who have not only visited space but orbited this planet. Oh, and the mission starts in about six months.
That’s the call three Americans got earlier this year. And the offer wasn’t for the kind of 15-minute jaunt to the edge of space that we saw recentlyand . We’re talking about a three-day stay in orbit, which NASA astronauts prepare for their entire lives.
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Sure, civilians have flown to the International Space Station before, but it usually took a personal fortune, a little influence, and months or even years of training. The idea of dragging people out of the dark and sending them into orbit in wonka style was the stuff of science fiction.
As I was writing this, medical assistant Hayley Arceneaux and data engineer Chris Sembroski, both of whom a year ago had no reason to believe they would ever visit space, were whizzing around this planet roughly every 90 minutes.
They were joined by billionaire Jared Isaacman and geologist Sian Proctor, both of whom have experience as pilots but no experience in space travel.
The quartet forms the entire crew ofthe . There was no professional NASA astronaut escort on board, only four space beginners who cruised over the earth, did research and made history. The mission is also billed as a fundraiser for St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, where Arceneaux was a patient as a child and now works as a medic.
All of this was funded by Isaacman and made possible thanks to SpaceX and its autonomous Crew Dragon spacecraft, the first new manned spacecraft (outside of China) we’ve seen since the space shuttle debuted decades ago.
This mission is a big deal for space fanatics, but billions of other people are forgiven for wondering why it is so important for another rich person to fund a space trip and invite a few randos to ride.
Inspiration for who?
First, it’s important to remember that new modes of transport usually went through the same process – trains and planes began when elite experiences revolutionized our lives. This suggests that the Inspiration4 crew might just be the first of many normal humans to go into orbit or beyond. (SpaceX did not respond to a request for comment.)
His next-generation Starship could eventually be used for super-fast international flights in orbit, possibly with a lower carbon footprint than current commercial aircraft.
Inspiration4 lays the foundation for the idea of putting him into orbit as a passive passenger and opening up space for transport and other uses.
If, like me, you believe that expanding humanity’s footprint beyond our planet is likely to improve life on our planet, Inspiration4 is an important milestone on this generational journey.
I’m not sureor that life on orbiting space stations will soon be practical.
But I do know a few things: Industrialization on Earth often comes at the expense of the planet’s fragile ecosystems, and some of that industry could be relocated into space. Billionaires in space today could be the first step towards the factories or orbiting power plants of tomorrow that will help us finally contain climate change.
Plus, the original space race of the 1950s-1970s not only put humans on the moon, it also spawned a ton of innovations that underpin our civilization today.
thethat gets you where you need to go, and our satellite-based society that transports all kinds of information around the globe at the speed of light, can be traced directly to the Mercury and Apollo programs and the creation of NASA.
It is exciting to imagine what parts of daily life in 2050 will be thanks to SpaceX and Inspiration4.