Science & Technology

Everything ready for launch of first all-civilian space mission

Miami, Sep 14 (EFE).- The first space mission with an all-civilian crew – dubbed Inspiration4 – is ready to be launched into orbit from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule on Wednesday.

With an 80 percent chance of favorable weather, the skies seem to be doing their part to aid the launch – scheduled for 8:02 pm on Wednesday – of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Dragon crew capsule into space for the three-day mission and during which NASA will be merely a spectator.

A businessman, an engineer, a medical assistant and a science educator will be on board the capsule which, on its orbital mission, will soar to almost 575 kilometers (356 miles) above the Earth, higher than the orbit of the International Space Station and the Hubble Space Telescope.

Benji Reed, the head of crewed missions for SpaceX, said Tuesday that he gets “goosebumps” when he thinks of how fast the firm organized and prepared for the mission, for which the four crewmembers have been vaccinated against Covid-19 and have been carefully following prevention protocols and undergoing training.

At a speed of about 28,160 kph (17,460 mph), the capsule will circle the Earth every 90 minutes in what will be a significantly broader mission than the short sub-orbital flights recently made by billionaires Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos aboard their space firms’ rockets.

Both moguls went into near-orbit at three times the speed of sound and experienced zero gravity for a few minutes during their flights.

The Dragon capsule – named Resilience – that will carry the crew into orbit is same one that was used in a NASA mission that launched last November and returned to Earth in May.

On the Inspiration4 mission, the only billionaire is mission commander Jared Isaacman, 38, the founder and president of Shift4 Payments, an aviation aficionado and the man who selected – and financed the space journeys – of the other three crewmembers at a cost that, so far, has not been made public, but which he has said is below the $200 million he hopes to raise from public contributions.

Traveling into orbit with Isaacman will be Hayley Arceneaux, 29, a cancer survivor and physician assistant at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, who will be the youngest person ever to go into Earth orbit.

Also on board will be 51-year-old university professor Sian Proctor and 42-year-old aerospace engineer and US Air Force veteran Chris Sembroski.

Proctor said at a press conference on Tuesday afternoon that she will be the first African-American female to pilot a space vehicle, adding that she considered it an “honor” to have that distinction.

She added that on Tuesday she had a very nice conversation with former US first lady Michelle Obama, a woman who he said inspires her.

Proctor went on to say that since the announcement of the mission, each day had been the “best day of my life” and things keep getting better.

The civilian crewmembers have received six months of training at the SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California, including zero gravity maneuvers and practice experiencing the gravitational forces they will encounter on their space mission.

They have been trained in how to deal with emergencies, how to enter and exit space vehicles and how to use their space suits, as well as going through simulations of partial and complete missions.

Isaacman said Tuesday that the team had a meeting with SpaceX president and founder Elon Musk, who assured them that the firm’s entire management team is focused solely on this mission.

The Dragon capsule has an observation area offering unbelievable 360-degree views of space and the Earth below, a portion of the capsule that has been rigorously tested and certified for space flight, according to SpaceX.

Reed alluded to the growing number of commercial missions being undertaken by astronauts and emphasized that SpaceX is “preparing” to be able to send up to half a dozen missions into orbit each year with the Dragon capsule The mission, which is the subject of a Netflix series, has a charitable component, given that it will serve to collect funds to benefit the St. Jude Hospital, a campaign launched by Isaacman with a donation of $100 million and which he hopes to double with contributions from individuals and other donors.

After launching from Cape Canaveral and spending three days in orbit, the Dragon capsule will re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere to land in the ocean off the Florida coast.

With the mission, SpaceX intends to establish another landmark in space transportation by private companies after in 2020 making crewed flights from US soil up to the ISS and back.

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