SpaceX’s turn to embark on space tourism. A rocket from Elon Musk’s company is due to propel four passengers who will spend three days in space on Wednesday, a very ambitious mission that will be the first in history to send into orbit only complete novices, without any professional astronaut.
Called Inspiration4, this mission must conclude a summer marked by the flight of billionaires over the ultimate 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 weather conditions dictate. Passengers will take off from the iconic Launch Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Center, Florida, where the Apollo missions take off to the moon.
Atop the Falcon 9 rocket, which is 70 meters high, perches 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 void spatial. It replaces the system normally intended to dock with the ISS.
The take-off is due to take place on Wednesday from 8:02 p.m. (12:02 a.m. GMT Thursday) from the legendary Kennedy Space Center in NASA, Florida. The launch window is five hours. At about 80 km altitude, the first floor will separate, and will automatically come back to land for reuse in the future.
SpaceX did not provide details on the exact unfolding of the flight afterwards. During manned flights, the second floor 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 Earth, and land off the coast of Florida, slowed down by huge parachutes.
“The risk is not zero,” admits Jared Isaacman in one of the episodes of the documentary released 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 American billionaire Jared Isaacman who serves as the captain on board. This 38-year-old boss of a financial company is a seasoned pilot. This 38-year-old American, married and father of two daughters, is the CEO of Shift4 Payments, which provides stores and restaurants with a credit card transaction processing service. He created it when he was 16, from the basement of the family home. A keen pilot, he holds a round-the-world jet record and is qualified to fly on military aircraft.
Hope. Hayley Arceneaux, 29, is a survivor of pediatric cancer, and now works at St Jude’s Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, where she was treated as a child. She will be the medical officer of the mission. She will be the youngest American ever to be sent into orbit around Earth and the first person with a prosthesis to go into 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 United States Air Force alumnus who now works in the aviation industry. He was selected after making a donation as part of the fundraiser for St Jude’s 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 took part in an experiment in Hawaii simulating life on Mars, and twice applied to NASA to become an astronaut. In 2009, she was among the finalists (a few dozen out of more than 3,500 starting candidates). She will only be the fourth African-American woman to go to space.
She will be the pilot of the mission, assisting the commander. She won her seat by creating an online sales site related 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 experienced the g-force to which they will be exposed 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 done 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 the human has vocation to become a multiplanetary being. And to become one, Mars is a must. In a 16-page article published in 2017 in the journal New Space, he unveiled his timetable, but also the conditions to be fulfilled to succeed in a 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 introduce the four members of the crew, two more on training and the last 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 footage from inside the ship during their journey, as well as their return to Earth, with the promise of “unparalleled access”, “near real time. “. The series, dubbed Countdown: Inspiration4 Mission to Space, will be directed by Jason Hehir, director of The Last Dance documentary about the Chicago Bulls. by Michael Jordan, awarded at the Emmy Awards.