SpaceX launches Inspiration4, the first all-civilian mission to orbit

Private Spaceflight Explainer
Private Spaceflight Explainer
Posted at 9:31 AM, Sep 15, 2021

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — A historic launch out of the Kennedy Space Center took place Wednesday night. The first-ever all-civilian crew launched into space for a three-day mission.

The crew on board has quite the credentials.

The man behind the mission is 38-year-old Jared Isaacman. A high school dropout turned successful businessman, Isaacman earned his wealth through his company, Shift 4 Payment.

He's using that success to fund the mission. His flight is grounded around four pillars: leadership, hope, generosity, and prosperity.

His team includes Chris Sembroski, Sian Proctor, Jared Isaacman and Hayley Arceneaux.

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In this Aug. 8, 2021 photo provided by John Kraus, from left, Chris Sembroski, Sian Proctor, Jared Isaacman and Hayley Arceneaux stand for a photo in Bozeman, Mont., during a "fighter jet training" weekend to familiarize the crew with G-forces. (John Kraus/Inspiration4 via AP)

Physician assistant Hayley Arceneaux represents hope. At the age of 10, she was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a form of bone cancer.

After chemotherapy and a limb-saving surgery she now works as a Physician Assistant (PA) at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital — the same place where she was treated for and beat cancer.

“From a medical officer perspective, I am so excited about the research that we are going to be doing on this flight and we are going to be collecting a lot of swabs to learn about the microbiome, how that changes in flight. We are going to be performing ultrasounds so we can evaluate for fluid shifts as well as performing some cognitive tests and studying radiation effects of going to our high altitude," Arceneaux said.

Chris Sembroski will bring his experience as a veteran with the U.S. Air Force and will represent generosity. He was a U.S. Space Camp Counselor. While he was in the U.S. Air Force, Sembroski maintained a fleet of Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles and deployed for service in Iraq before leaving active duty in 2007.

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In this July 2, 2021 photo provided by John Kraus, from left, Sian Proctor, Chris Sembroski, Jared Isaacman and Hayley Arceneaux pose for a photo at Duke Health in Durham, N.C, during hypoxia training to understand how each crew member reacts in a low-oxygen environment. (John Kraus/Inspiration4 via AP)

“As a mission specialist on this flight, I am really excited to make sure that we have a very successful mission. That we take care of all the medical experiments very in a way that is truly going to help expand humanity’s presence out in space for the long term," Sembroski said.

Dr. Sian Proctor will serve as the mission pilot.

She will be the first-ever African-American woman who will pilot a mission. As a child, she watched in awe and heartbreak as New Hampshire teacher, Sharon Christa-McAuliffe was among the Challenger crew.

“Her legacy as being the first teacher in space to me being now this educator going to space and how do I bring everybody along with me," Dr. Proctor said.

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In this Sunday, Sept. 12, 2021 photo made available by SpaceX, from left, Chris Sembroski, Sian Proctor, Jared Isaacman and Hayley Arceneaux sit in the Dragon capsule at Cape Canaveral in Florida, during a dress rehearsal for the upcoming launch. The fully automated Dragon is the same kind that SpaceX uses to send astronauts to and from the International Space Station for NASA. But the chartered flight won't be going there. (SpaceX via AP)

She's a geoscientist, college professor and an analog astronaut who has completed four analog missions.

While in space the crew will orbit the Earth 15 times a day and will conduct a number of tests to learn how the regular human body adapts to high altitudes.

This flight will have a number of firsts, including the highest altitude any human has gone into orbit since the Hubble servicing missions. They will also be at a higher altitude than the International Space Station.

The three-day mission will also be filled with some fun. Sembroski will bring his ukulele on board and the new Kings of Leon release will be on the Falcon 9 flight to jam out to.

Isaacman is using his mission to continue space exploration, but also as a platform to raise awareness and money for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. His goal is to raise $200 million through his flight and auctions connected to it.

"We also chose to do it through the largest fundraising effort in the history of St. Jude's Research Hospital. Acknowledging you know the real responsibilities that we have here on earth in order to earn the right to make progress up in space," Isaacman said.