We recently covered the rivalry between Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin. Still to fly is perhaps the most famous competitor: Elon Musk’s SpaceX. But that’s about to change through an upcoming commercial mission christened Inspiration4. As of yet, no specific date for the flight has been announced, except that it’ll happen after September 15.
For the uninitiated, it may seem like there’s nothing remarkable about being the third private space company to transport tourists into space, but there’s more to the mission than that.
While the competitors’ flights had a duration of about an hour, of which mere minutes were spent in zero gravity, the Inspiration4 voyage is planned to last three days, carrying its crew into orbit. That means that Inspiration4 will be the first to take humans around the earth without any professional astronauts on board.
Crew Dragon will take the space tourists around the planet
The craft to be used in the launch is called the Crew Dragon, a development of SpaceX’s Dragon capsule, which first carried cargo to the International Space Station in 2012. With a contract with NASA in place, the craft has continued to carry cargo to the ISS ever since.
The manned version of this craft is, for obvious reasons, called the Crew Dragon and made a test flight carrying a dummy to the ISS and back as early as 2019. A flight carrying actual passengers occurred the following year. To date, both versions of the Dragon have visited the ISS 25 times.
A space voyage for more cancer research
The voyage is being payrolled by Jared Isaacman, a New Jersey entrepreneur who wants to use the flight to raise funds and awareness to help St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. The clinic conducts pediatric cancer research and doesn’t charge families for the treatment of their children. Isaacman pledges $100 million out of his own pocket and hopes that the flight will raise another $100 million or more.
A noteworthy measure to raise these funds is to make beer. Among the cargo on the flight will be 70 pounds of hops. Isaacman hopes to auction it off to a brewery that will turn it into space beer.
Three people will join Isaacman on the journey, all chosen as a means to support St Jude’s. One of these is Hayley Arceneaux, who was treated for bone cancer at St Jude’s as a child and now is a physician’s assistant there. Having had metal rods replace parts of her bones in her left leg, she will be the first person in space with a prosthetic body part, and at 29, she will be the youngest American in space.
The other two seats were given away through a raffle which raised $13 million.