US billionaire buys SpaceX flight to orbit with 3 others

Pablo Tucker
February 2, 2021

Shift4 Payments and Draken International founder Jared Isaacman has booked a trip with SpaceX that is being called "the world's first all-civilian mission to space". Anyone donating to St Jude in February will be entered into a random draw for seat number three, and the fourth will go to a business owner who uses Shift4 Payments, Mr Isaacman's credit card processing company in Allentown, Pennsylvania. Two of the of seats on the four person ride will be donated to St. Jude recipients, with one going to an ambassador for the children's medical research center (a frontline healthcare worker, Isaacman specified), and another going to a member of the public that will be chosen from entrants to an online contest based on either making a donation to St. Jude.

The crew would be aboard SpaceX's Crew Dragon astronaut capsule, which ferried two cadres of NASA astronauts to the International Space Station a year ago. It'll then re-enter Earth's atmosphere and make a water landing in the Atlantic Ocean, where it'll be recovered by a SpaceX crew.

Said Isaacman, "Inspiration4 is the realization of a lifelong dream and a step towards a future in which anyone can venture out and explore the stars". The second seat will represent the mission pillar of Generosity. He has committed to give US$100 million to St. Jude and is attempting to raise US$200 million or more. The other seat will be given to a member of the public who enters a raffle online.

The front line worker from St. Jude has already been selected and is a woman. He has flown in over 100 airshows as part of the Black Diamond Jet Team, dedicating every performance to charitable causes. "Because at first things are very expensive, and it is only through missions like this that we're able to bring the cost down over time and make space accessible to all". "In the lead-up to launch, we'll share new ways to support and follow our mission preparation and execution with a focus on inspiring and helping others". "They will go through emergency preparedness training, spacesuit and spacecraft ingress and egress exercises, as well as partial and full mission simulations", it added. The previous flight, known as the Crew-1 mission, took place in November, carrying three NASA astronauts and Japan's Soichi Noguchi. The crew and mission will carry the goal of raising upwards of $200 million to expand St. Jude's childhood cancer research.

It will be the third manned flight to the ISS by the Crew Dragon capsule, developed by the USA company Space Exploration Technologies Corp. The mission will launch from historic Launch Complex 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida and will be carefully monitored at every step by SpaceX mission control as the spacecraft orbits the planet every 90 minutes along a customized flight path. That mission in early 2022 will be led by a former National Aeronautics and Space Administration astronaut, joined by three private astronauts.

Also on board the spacecraft will be a set of microgravity experiments, with details to be announced at a later date.

The Crew-2 launch is timed to allow the quartet to arrive before the four Crew-1 astronauts now living and working in space return home; they will return sometime in late April or early May, according to the NASA statement.

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