The Inspiration4 mission will take off on Wednesday. This is the fourth time SpaceX has sent humans into space. The passengers, all novices, will go further than the International Space Station (ISS).
SpaceX’s turn to embark on space tourism. A rocket from Elon Musk’s company is to propel four passengers on Wednesday who will spend three days in space, a very ambitious mission that will be the first in history to send only complete novices into orbit, without any professional astronaut. .
Called Inspiration4, this mission is to conclude a summer marked by the flight of billionaires over the final frontier: first Richard Branson on July 11, aboard the Virgin Galactic ship, then a few days later Jeff Bezos, with his company Blue Origin.
Take-off is scheduled for Wednesday from 8:00 p.m. on the US East Coast (midnight GMT). Another launch opportunity is planned for Thursday if the weather conditions require it. Passengers will take off from the legendary launch pad 39A, at NASA’s Kennedy Center, Florida, from where the Apollo missions to the moon took off.
At the top of the Falcon 9 rocket, which is 70 meters high, is perched the Dragon capsule, where the crew are located. This spacecraft has already taken 10 astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) on three separate missions.
The Dragon capsule (8m high, 4m in diameter) has been modified here: a huge glass dome has been installed to offer passengers a 360 ° view of the vacuum of space. It replaces the system normally intended to dock with the ISS.
Take-off is scheduled to take place Wednesday from 8:02 p.m. (12:02 a.m. GMT Thursday) from the legendary NASA Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The launch window is five hours. At an altitude of around 80 km, the first stage will separate, and will automatically come back to land to be reused in the future.
SpaceX did not provide details on the exact course of the flight afterwards. During manned flights, the second stage usually separates about ten minutes after take-off.
The Dragon capsule will then remain in space for three days. It will go further than the ISS, which rotates at an altitude of 400 km, aiming for an orbit of 575 km. It will then begin a vertiginous fall towards the Earth, and will land off the coast of Florida, slowed down by immense parachutes.
“The risk is not zero,” admits Jared Isaacman in one of the episodes of the documentary broadcast by Netflix on the mission. “You are traveling in a 28,000 km / h vessel around the globe. This kind of environment comes with some risk.”
The mission was chartered by the American billionaire Jared isaacman who has the functions of captain on board. This 38-year-old boss of a financial company is a seasoned pilot. This 38-year-old American, married with two daughters, is the CEO of the company Shift4 Payments, which offers a service for processing bank card transactions to stores and restaurants. He created it when he was 16, from the basement of the family home. Passionate about piloting, he holds a round-the-world jet record and is qualified to fly on military aircraft.
Jared Isaacman has decided to offer three seats to anonymous. These guests embody three values.
Hope. Hayley Arceneaux, 29, is a pediatric cancer survivor, and now works in St Jude Hospital in Memphis (Tennessee) where she was treated as a child. She will be the medical manager of the mission. She will be the youngest American to be sent into orbit around the Earth and the first person with a prosthesis to go to space.
The young woman works as a medical assistant in St Jude’s pediatric hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, an establishment for which Jared Isaacman has launched a huge fundraiser.
Generosity. Chris Sembroski, 42, is a former US Air Force employee who now works in the aviation industry. He was selected after making a donation as part of the fundraiser for St Jude Hospital. Its seat represents generosity. Its role will be to help manage cargo on board, and communications with Earth.
Prosperity. At 51, Sian Proctor was a professor of Earth Sciences for 20 years. Born in Guam, her father worked at NASA during the Apollo missions. She participated in an experiment in Hawaii simulating life on Mars, and twice applied to NASA to become an astronaut. In 2009, she arrived among the finalists (a few dozen out of more than 3,500 candidates at the start). She will be only the fourth African American woman to go to space.
She will be the pilot of the mission, assisting the commander. It won its seat by creating an online sales site linked to the space, as part of an entrepreneurial competition organized by Jared Isaacman’s company.
All four of them trained for just under six months, compared to years for astronauts.
They experimented with the g-force they will be exposed to through a centrifuge – a rapidly rotating several-meter arm – and jet flights. On board parabolic flights, they were able to taste a feeling of weightlessness. They also did a high altitude snow trek on Mount Rainier (northwestern United States).
Finally, although the flight will normally be fully automated, they have been trained by SpaceX to be able to take control in the event of an emergency.
During the three days in orbit, their sleep, heart rate, blood and cognitive abilities will be analyzed. Tests will be carried out before and after the flight, to study the effect of the trip on their body. The idea is to accumulate data for future private passengers. Because the stated goal of the mission is to open the doors of space to more people.
Elon Musk, boss of Space X, believes that humans have a vocation to become a multiplanetary being. And to become it, Mars is a must. In a 16-page article published in 2017 in the journal New Space, it unveiled its schedule, but also the conditions to be met for a successful massive colonization of the red planet.
Inspiration4 will be available for viewing in a documentary series on Netflix. Five episodes are planned in total on this mission, which represents a new stage for space tourism. Two episodes present the four members of the crew, two more on training and final preparations before the flight, and a final one, which will be broadcast at the end of September, “just a few days” after the end of the mission.
This final episode will feature images of the interior of the ship during their journey, as well as their return to Earth, with the promise of “unparalleled access”, in “near real time”. The series, dubbed Countdown: Inspiration4 Mission to Space, will be directed by Jason Hehir, director of Michael Jordan’s Emmy Award-winning documentary The Last Dance about the Chicago Bulls.