Citizen spacefliers begin an orbital mission like no other

A tech billionaire and three other non-professional spacefliers blasted off today to begin the first non-governmental, philanthropic mission carrying a crew to orbit.

The founder and CEO of Shift4 Payments, Jared Isaacman, is paying what’s thought to be in excess of $100 million for what’s expected to be a three-day flight in a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule.

Isaacman organized the Inspiration4 mission with SpaceX’s help as a benefit for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis. The 38-year-old billionaire kicked off the $200 million campaign with a commitment to donate $100 million himself.

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket lifted off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 8:02 p.m. ET (5:02 p.m. PT). “Punch it, SpaceX!” Isaacman told mission control.

By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributor to GeekWire and Universe Today, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," past president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing.

One reply on “Citizen spacefliers begin an orbital mission like no other”

Thank you for eschewing the use of the term “space tourists” to describe the crew of the Inspiration 4 space flight. While Mr Isaacman’s own statements have likely encouraged the use of this term, the fact is that the crew were selected (by Mr Isaacman himself) to imbue greater meaning to the flight than the word “tourism” would imply.

Space tourism is something that will not be practical or even sustainable, just as mass tourism on the Earth is probably not ecologically or socially sustainable.

Better to call this flight “proof of concept”, the “concept” in this case being the presence of civilians in space (and, ultimately, on the Moon and Mars).

Unlike astronauts, cosmonauts and taikonauts, this crew is not in space simply to follow orders issued by NASA, EASA, Roscosmos (or even the more paramilitary organizations, like CNSA).

They are there to demonstrate to the rest of us that we can dare to dream about living away from the Earth and doing the things people do (writing poetry, educating others, showing the rest of us that someone with a prosthetic is just as capable of meeting the challenge of space flight as an able-bodied person).

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