Inspiration4 Crew to Conduct Medical Experiments During Flight

The Inspiration4 flight is set to launch on September 15 on a three-day flight that will orbit Earth at an altitude of about 575 kilometers. The crew includes Shift4Shop founder Jared Isaacman, St. Jude physician’s assistant Hayley Arcenaux, data engineer Chris Sembroski and geoscientist and artist Sian Proctor. Isaacman organized the flight as a fundraiser for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, which raised $113 million through a raffle of one of the seats on the flight.

According to newly available information about the flight, the crew will conduct several medical experiments while orbiting Earth. These include monitoring of ECG (electrocardiograph) activity, movement, a sleep study, heart rate and rhythm, blood oxygen saturation, cabin noise, and light intensity. Tests will include producing samples that will be used for analysis of the crew’s genetics and microbiome, as well as scans of their organs using an ultrasound device that is currently being tested by the crew on the International Space Station. The tests could improve future missions by providing data needed to assess changes in behavioral and cognitive performance over time.

The research is being organized in collaboration with Weill Cornell Medicine, which will store samples and data using a Biobank, which is capable of cryogenically freezing samples. According to SpaceX, the research could have practical applications on Earth along with being useful for planning during future space flights.

Meanwhile, the crew has been through months of training, including procedures for a possible medical emergency. Isaacman said of it:

“There’s north of 60 procedures that range from normal contingency to emergency. In a multi-day mission there is a lot of time for a lot of things to go wrong.”

Most things could be covered by the level of automation on a SpaceX Crew Dragon or through troubleshooting by a ground control team like the one at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. SpaceX operates a Launch Control Center at Cape Canaveral and a Mission Control Center in southern California. The crew have also trained for taking manual control of the spacecraft if something fails, though NASA astronauts who have previously flown on the Crew Dragon seem to consider it unlikely.

“There’s no plans to do any more manual flying, unless there’s a need for it from a systems failure kind of scenario,” says astronaut Doug Hurley, who flew on SpaceX’s Demo-2 mission, which was the final test flight for the Crew Dragon. NASA is now satisfied that the Crew Dragon is fully operational.

Netflix plans to produce a documentary on Inspiration4, which will be released in five parts in near-real time. Titled Countdown: Inspiration4 Mission to Space, the documentary is being produced by director Jason Hehir, who previously produced the documentary on basketball star Michael Jordan titled The Last Dance. Netflix is also producing the companion show A StoryBots Space Adventure.