SpaceX opens call for crew members in first ‘all-civilian’ mission

2 Feb 2021

SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft. Image: SpaceX

Pilot and tech entrepreneur Jared Isaacman will bring three civilians on a space mission to raise money for cancer research.

SpaceX has announced plans to bring an ‘all-civilian’ mission to space for the first time later this year. The mission is expected to take off in Q4 2021 and will be led by Jared Isaacman, a pilot, tech entrepreneur and the founder of Shift4 Payments.

Isaacman is paying for the Inspiration4 flight and will bring three people with him. One of the available seats will be given to an ambassador for St Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Tennessee.

The other two seats are being offered up in two separate competitions. The first is open to members of the public who make a donation of at least $10 to St Jude. The second is an online competition for customers of Isaacman’s Shift4Shop e-commerce platform.

“Inspiration4 is the realisation of a lifelong dream and a step towards a future in which anyone can venture out and explore the stars,” Isaacman said. “I appreciate the tremendous responsibility that comes with commanding this mission and I want to use this historic moment to inspire humanity while helping to tackle childhood cancer here on Earth.”

Isaacman is donating $100m to St Jude and is hoping to raise a total of $200m for the research hospital through this mission. Other prizes will be up for grabs to help with fundraising, including flight gear and flights in a military jet.

Preparing for take-off

SpaceX will deliver commercial astronaut training to the members of the Inspiration4 crew. This will take place on the Falcon 9 launch vehicle and Dragon spacecraft. A large focus will be on various types of stress testing, including orbital mechanics and operating in microgravity and zero gravity.

The crew will also receive emergency preparedness training, spacesuit and spacecraft ingress and egress exercises and mission simulations. After training, the mission will take off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

It will orbit the Earth every 90 minutes as it follows a customised flight path for a number of days, eventually re-entering the atmosphere for a soft-water landing off the coast of Florida.

“The same year St Jude Children’s Research Hospital broke boundaries by opening its doors, the first American orbited the Earth in 1962,” said Richard C Shadyac Jr, president and CEO of ALSAC, the fundraising and awareness organisation for St Jude.

“From the beginning, St Jude has been at the forefront of innovation and inclusion, leading in cancer research, care and treatment for some of the world’s sickest children regardless of race, ethnicity, beliefs or a family’s ability to pay.

“This partnership brings two missions together to create one incredible moment in time that will make an impact for years to come on the global effort to cure childhood cancer.”

Lisa Ardill was careers editor at Silicon Republic until June 2021