The Inspiration4 mission launched shortly after 8:00 pm Eastern time from Cape Canaveral. The first-ever civilian crew is commanded by Shift4Shop founder Jared Isaacman, who organized the mission as a fundraiser for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
Isaacman raised a total of $113 million for the hospital in a raffle giving away one of the seats. A friend of crew member Chris Sembroski reportedly won the raffle, then gifted the seat to Sembrowski. SpaceX apparently hosted a fundraiser for St. Jude on its livestream of the Inspiration4 launch, which at last check raised an additional $229,000.
Another seat was given away in a contest in which entrants could qualify by testing the Shift4Shop ecommerce solution. Sian Proctor, a geology professor at South Mountain Community College, won that contest.
Hayley Arceneaux, a childhood cancer survivor who now works as a physician at St. Jude, rounds out the crew and will serve as the team’s medical officer.
Inspiration4 will orbit Earth at an altitude of about 585 kilometers, higher than the International Space Station. The crew will conduct several biomedical experiments that include studies on cognition and behavior while in space, as well as conducting a sleep study and providing additional “research grade” data on heart rate and blood oxygen saturation. The data can be used to solve many of the biomedical riddles related to crewed space missions.
The Crew Dragon for Inspiration4 was previously used for NASA’s Crew-1 mission, which was the first operational mission for the Commercial Crew Program. Crew-1 was launched last November, ferrying four astronauts to the International Space Station, and successfully splashed down in May. Crew-1 Commander Michael Hopkins gave the Crew Dragon the name of “Resilience” before his flight.
Congratulations for the crew is already pouring in from around the world. Although Inspiration4 was not organized or sponsored by NASA, it was quick to treat its congratulations:
Local coverage by Tampa Bay News Nine included space enthusiasts like the founder of the popular Facebook group Space Hipsters, Emily Carney.
“I think it’s right up there with the first major flights just because it’s showing that you don’t have to be part of a space agency to fly to space. You can be a civilian,” she told Tampa Bay News Nine during coverage of the launch.
If you have a Netflix subscription, the first part of its planned five-part documentary on Inspiration4 should already be up. Netflix plans to release subsequent parts in what it describes as “near real-time,” as soon as possible during and after the Inspiration4 mission.
Upcoming all-civilian missions include a series of flights organized by Axiom Space and often commanded by veteran NASA astronauts like Peggy Whitson and Michael Lopez-Alegria. Axiom Space’s missions will lay the groundwork for adding its inflatable modules to the International Space Station and eventually spinning them off into an independent space station.
SpaceX also plans to send civilians on a trip around the Moon as part of the dearMoon mission, organized by Japanese fashion industry entrepreneur Yusaku Maezawa. Maezawa will fly with several to-be-determined individuals who are likely to be artists representing a wide variety of art forms.