Four amateur astronauts are all set to make history on September 15 (September 16 in India) when they launch into orbit on the Dragon spacecraft, manufactured by Elon Musk's SpaceX. In the latest trip to space, the four tourists will journey into the low earth orbit (LEO), flying much higher than billionaires Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos.
Called Inspiration4, the three-day mission hopes to bring space closer to laypersons and also raise money for a children's cancer charity.
What is the mission?
The Dragon spacecraft will take Jared Isaacman, Hayley Arceneaux, Dr Sian Proctor and Chris Sembroski on an all-civilian mission to an altitude of 575 km (360 miles) in space, which is nearly 150 km higher than the International Space Station (ISS) and the Hubble Space Telescope. It will remain in LEO, “flying farther from Earth than any human spaceflight since the Hubble Space Telescope repair missions,” according to the website.
Apart from looking down at Earth through a large dome, the quartet will conduct experiments in space “to increase humanity’s knowledge on the impact of spaceflight on the human body." They are likely to collect data on ECG activity, heart rate, sleep, blood oxygen saturation, cabin noise and light intensity.
The mission will be commanded by Jared Isaacman, founder and CEO of Shift4 Payments, who has booked the flight for an undisclosed sum.
"When this mission is complete, people are going to look at it and say, 'It was the first time everyday people could go to space'," Isaacman told the BBC.
With the mission, Inspiration4 wishes to raise $200 million for St Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
A space car called Resilience
The four will fly into space in SpaceX-manufactured Dragon atop a Falcon-9 rocket. The vehicle, called Resilience, will be launched from the historic Florida's Kennedy Space Centre, which has been the launchpad of Apollo 11’s lunar mission. The vehicle is capable of carrying up to seven people and is the first private spacecraft to take humans to a space station. The spacecraft is fitted with a glass dome in place of the mechanism the vehicle uses to dock with the ISS. The crew will alight or splash down on the Atlantic Ocean.
Meet the crew
Apart from Isaacman, the spacecraft will fly Hayley Arceneaux, a 29-year-old physician assistant at St Jude Children’s Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee; Dr Sian Proctor, a 51-year-old geoscientist and science communicator; and Chris Sembroski, a 42-year-old US Air Force veteran and engineer at aerospace company Lockheed Martin.
How is the mission different?
The mission follows Richard Branson’s flight on his Virgin Galactic craft on July 11 and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’s trip on the New Shepard vehicle on July 20.
Inspiration4 will go fully into the orbit, unlike Branson and Bezos who only went above the atmosphere. Their space trips were completed in a few minutes, while Inspiration4 will spend three days in space.
The space flights are also different in terms of speed. The Resilience capsule will move at an orbital velocity to circle the Earth, balancing momentum and force of gravity. This means, it will move at a speed of more than 27,000 kmph. The quartet will thus complete a full rotation of the Earth every 90 minutes. The Branson and Bezos flights could only move at a fraction of that speed.
(Edited by : Shoma Bhattacharjee)