SpaceX, an aerospace company founded by Elon Musk, will be sending four people into space on September 15, 2021 (Wednesday). This is the first all-civilian mission that has ever been done, and it is poised to make history as the first all-civilian crew launched into Earth orbit. The mission is called Inspiration4, and it will lift off from NASA’s 39A at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The mission will head on a three-day journey around Earth.
The four-member crew is being commanded by Jared Isaacman, the billionaire tech entrepreneur and founder and CEO of Shift4 Payments. Isaacman is an accomplished jet pilot, and he is rated to fly commercial, and military aircraft, and holds several world records including two Speed-Around-The-World flights in 2008 and 2009. Apart from Issacman, the crew includes, St. Jude physician’s assistant Hayley Arcenaux, data engineer Chris Sembroski and geoscientist, science communicator and space artist Sian Proctor. The crew will be collaborating with SpaceX, the Translational Research Institute for Space Health (TRISH) at Baylor College of Medicine and investigators at Weill Cornell Medicine.
We all know that Virgin Galactic, and Blue Origin have celebrated their debut astro-tourism missions. The company’s founders, Richard Branson, and Jeff Bezos also joined their respective crew in each of those rides. However, those flights were suborbital in scale, and they landed in a matter of minutes.
Meanwhile, the SpaceX flight is designed to carry its crew into Earth orbit. They will circle the globe once every 90 minutes at more than 17,000 mph (27,360 kph), or roughly 22 times the speed of sound. The target altitude in 575 kilometers, or around 360 miles, beyond the orbits of the International Space Station, and the Hubble Space Telescope.
Civilians going to space is something that we haven’t before, but it is something that we see have seen in movies a lot. But this is real life, and in real life, astronauts train for years, and even decades to prepare for their space journeys. However, these 4 civilians have gone through rigorous training as well. The crew’s training has lasted months and has included experiencing high G force on a centrifuge.
The crew also went on parabolic flights to experience weightlessness for a few seconds, and completed a high altitude, snowy trek on Mount Rainier in the northwestern United States. They spent time at the SpaceX base. But the important thing to note here is that the flight itself will be fully autonomous, and it doesn’t require anyone manning it.
If you are wondering why many are excited about sending civilians to space, then let us explain how this can help us. During the three-day period, the crew will perform experiments looking at how space affects the human body. The crew’s sleep, heart rate, blood, and cognitive abilities will be analysed over the three days of orbit. Tests will be carried out before, and after the flight to study the effect of the trip on their body.
SpaceX will also be collecting environmental, and biometrical data, as well as biological samples such as blood from the crew before, during and after the mission. These samples will be studied for future crew missions that SpaceX has in the pipeline.
The data will be accumulated for future missions with private passengers. The goal of the mission is to make space accessible for more people. Isaacman said that the crew is eager to use the mission to help make a better future for those who will launch in the years, and decades to come. Isaacman also said that the crew is proud that their flight will help influence all those who will travel after them and look forward to seeing how this mission will help shape the beginning of a new era for space exploration.
In The End
This mission is important because it would enable SpaceX to collect essential data, which will be helpful for future space travels. Because SpaceX is planning to launch to Mars in the future, and that needs a lot of research. So, these civilian flights will give the company the information it needs to put humans in other planets.
Having said that, not everyone can afford to go to space, and that is true. With more and more tech billionaires setting their eyes on space tourism, we can say for sure that going to space is a privilege that can not be afforded by many. Even though three of the four people who are taking part in this mission are not rich, Isaacman paid an estimated $200 million to fund the trip. It takes months to prepare ordinary people for these space journeys, and ordinary people do not have that much time to spend on preparing for space travels. On top of that, space travels come with their own risks, and they could also be dangerous.
But despite all the risks, we cannot ignore the fact that space journeys are inspirational and show humanity’s determination to explore places beyond anyone’s imagination. On the other hand, it also makes us question why tech billionaires are investing aggressively in this particular industry? — Is it because they consider it simply as a race to enjoy the next ‘Moon landing’ moment before anyone else. Whatever it maybe, we have to wait and see how successful civilian space flights turn out to be, and how they are going to change private space exploration forever…