This article was published on February 2, 2021

Elon Musk’s SpaceX unveils plans for historic all-civilian mission to space

Donors to St Jude Children's Research Hospital will enter a raffle for one of the remaining seats

Elon Musk’s SpaceX unveils plans for historic all-civilian mission to space
Thomas Macaulay
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Thomas Macaulay

Writer at Neural by TNW Writer at Neural by TNW

Elon Musk’s SpaceX plans to launch the world’s first all-civilian mission to orbit later this year, the aerospace firm announced on Monday.

The journey will last for several days and the spacecraft will do a full orbit around the Earth every 90 minutes. This should give the passengers plenty of opportunities for sight-seeing before re-entering our atmosphere for a water landing off the coast of Florida.

Tech tycoon Jared Isaacman will command the Dragon astronaut capsule and donate three other seats to members of the public.

“While a historic journey awaits us in space, I hope this mission reinforces how far inspiration can take us and the extraordinary achievements it leads to here on Earth,” he said.

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The 37-year-old founder of transactions processing firm Shift4 Payments is also a pilot who holds a world record for a Speed-Around-The-World flight.

Isaacman said he aims to use the mission to raise $200 million for St Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital.

He hasn’t revealed how much he’s paying for the trip, but has committed $100 million of his own money to the fundraising initiative. He’s also promised to save a seat onboard the Dragon for a randomly-selected donor to the pediatric center.

Joining them on the journey will be a former patient of St Jude’s who’s now a medical worker at the hospital, and a business owner who uses Shift4 Payments. Their names will be announced in the coming weeks.

Credit: SpaceX
The Dragon spacecraft was designed to fly both NASA and commercial astronauts to Earth’s orbit, the space station, and beyond.

The mission was named Inspiration4 in recognition of the four-person crew’s efforts to raise funds for the hospital and herald a new era for human spaceflight.

SpaceX said the crew will undergo training on the Dragon and the Falcon 9 launch vehicle on operating in microgravity, zero gravity, and other forms of stress testing:

They will go through emergency preparedness training, spacesuit and spacecraft ingress and egress exercises, as well as partial and full mission simulations.

Musk promised that the voyage isn’t just a joy-ride for the rich.

“It’s like when America went to the moon in ’69. It wasn’t just a few people — humanity went to the moon,” he told NBC News.

SpaceX aims to launch Inspiration4 from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida in the fourth quarter of this year.

The announcement comes as the space tourism race is heating up: Musk’s fellow billionaires Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson also plan to take passengers to space this year.

If you’re on Team Space Karen, you could try donating to St Jude’s for a chance to bag a seat on the Dragon.

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