SpaceX's first space tourists scheduled to blast off Wednesday night
Sylvie Claire / September 15, 2021
The rocket is ready on the launch pad, the passengers are impatient after months of training: SpaceX is set to launch its first space tourism mission on Wednesday night, launching four complete novices on a very ambitious three-day journey into space.
Named Inspiration4, the mission has no professional astronauts on board, a first for an orbital flight.
The takeoff must take place from 20H02, with a window of launch of five hours. The weather seemed favorable, with a sunny sky on Wednesday morning.
The Falcon 9 rocket, carrying the Dragon capsule at its top, will be propelled from the mythical launch pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Center in Florida, where the Apollo 11 mission to the Moon took off.
The four Americans on board are scheduled to travel farther than the International Space Station (ISS), at a target orbit of 575 km. They will circle the globe about 15 times each day.
They will be able to enjoy a spectacular view through a glass dome installed for the first time at the end of Dragon, which will be uncovered after a maneuver only 13 minutes after liftoff.
At the end of their journey, they will begin a vertiginous descent to land off Florida, braked by huge parachutes.
The mission was chartered by the billionaire Jared Isaacman, 38 years old, owner of a financial services company and a seasoned pilot. The price he paid to SpaceX was not disclosed, but is in the tens of millions of dollars. He will be the commander on board, and has offered three other seats to strangers.
Hayley Arceneaux, a survivor of pediatric cancer, is a 29-year-old medical assistant. She will be the youngest American woman to go into space and the first person with a (femur) prosthesis.
Chris Sembroski, 42, is a former U.S. Air Force officer who now works in the aviation industry.
Finally, Sian Proctor, a 51-year-old Earth science professor, was almost selected in 2009 to become an astronaut for NASA. She will be only the fourth African-American woman to go into space.
Their training lasted only about six months. The flight would normally remain fully automated, but the crew was trained by SpaceX to be able to take control in case of an emergency.
The mission also serves as a huge fundraiser for the St. Jude Children's Hospital (Memphis, Tennessee), where Hayley Arceneaux works after being treated as a child. In the ship will be various objects (ukulele, 30 kg of hops to make space beer on Earth) which will then be auctioned.
SpaceX, which has already sent 10 astronauts to the ISS on behalf of NASA during its three previous manned missions, is planning other space tourism flights. The next one in January 2022, with three businessmen on board.