SpaceX’s turn to embark on space tourism. A rocket from Elon Musk’s company is scheduled to propel four passengers on Wednesday who will spend three days in space. Launched for the first time in 2001, missions of this type are multiplying in 2021.
This will be the first mission to send into orbit around the Earth only complete novices, without a professional astronaut on board. Baptized Inspiration4, it was chartered by billionaire and American pilot Jared Isaacman, at his expense. They will go beyond the altitude at which the ISS is located.
The flight should normally remain fully automated and the crew has been training for several months. In particular, they experienced the g-force to which they will be exposed.
Jared Isaacman, 38, American financial services company boss and seasoned pilot, hires SpaceX for a price that has not been disclosed but runs into tens of millions of dollars. This time, it’s about going to fly further than the International Space Station (ISS).
Elon Musk’s company has already transported ten astronauts to the ISS on behalf of NASA. But they will be the first private passengers to board the Dragon capsule, launched by the Falcon 9 rocket. Takeoff is scheduled for Wednesday from 8:00 p.m. on the US East Coast (midnight GMT).
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In addition to Jared Isaacman, captain on board, three anonymous will be on the trip, selected through a process that began with an advertisement projected during the halftime of the Super Bowl, an American sporting event. Hayley Arceneaux (29 years old), medical assistant and pediatric cancer survivor, Chris Sembroski (42 years old), former US Air Force who works in the aviation industry and Sian Proctor (51 years old), a Earth science professor who almost became an astronaut for NASA in 2009, complete the crew.
A crew under surveillance
During the three days in orbit, their sleep, heart rate, blood and cognitive abilities will be analyzed. Tests will be carried out before and after the flight, to study the effect of the trip on their body.
The idea is to accumulate data for future private passengers. Because the stated goal of the mission is to open the doors of space to a greater number – although these remain for the moment only partially open for a privileged few.
“In all of human history, less than 600 human beings have reached space,” Jared Isaacman recalled.
Many ongoing projects
The space tourism sector is still in its infancy, but the year 2021 marked a turning point, with the multiplication of missions. They range from a few minutes in zero gravity to stays of several days on the International Space Station.
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– AX-1 (Axiom Space with SpaceX) –
In January 2022, three businessmen will visit the ISS, alongside an experienced astronaut, formerly of NASA. The mission, which is to last 10 days in total and named Ax-1, is being organized by the company Axiom Space, which has signed up for three more future flights with SpaceX.
They will operate in the American segment of the ISS, where they will conduct scientific experiments.
– SPACE ADVENTURES (with SpaceX and Soyuz) –
SpaceX is planning another trip to orbit for four private clients, organized by intermediary company Space Adventures. It was the latter who had organized the trips of seven tourists in the ISS, between 2001 and 2009, aboard Russian rockets. The first client was Dennis Tito in 2001, who had paid $ 20 million for an eight-day stay in the ISS.
Thanks to a Russian Soyuz rocket, and still via Space Adventures, the Japanese Yusaku Maezawa is due to visit the ISS in December.
The company also announced a mission to the ISS in 2023 in a Russian rocket, for two participants, one of whom will have the opportunity to perform a spacewalk.
– DEARMOON (with SpaceX) –
Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa must also take a trip around the Moon, presumably in 2023, this time aboard the Starship rocket, still under development by SpaceX. The mission is called Dearmoon.
>> Read also: SpaceX rocket Starship landed after four explosions
– BE –
Russia will send an actress and a director to the ISS in October, aboard a Soyuz rocket. The goal: to shoot the first fiction film in orbit and in zero gravity.
– VIRGIN GALACTIC –
Richard Branson’s company offers just a few minutes in space. A huge carrier plane takes off from a classic runway, then drops a spacecraft driven by two pilots aloft.
This ignites its engine until it exceeds 80 km in altitude – the limit of space according to the American army -, then descends while hovering. Passengers can detach themselves and float for a few moments in zero gravity.
The start of regular commercial operations is scheduled for 2022.
>> Read also: With Virgin Galactic, Richard Branson finally realizes his dream of flying in space
– BLUE ORIGIN –
Jeff Bezos’ company also offers an experience of a few minutes in zero gravity, but above 100 km – the Karman line, which marks the beginning of space according to the international convention.
The fully automated rocket takes off vertically, and the capsule detaches in flight, before falling back to Earth braked by three parachutes and a back-propeller.
>> Read also: On board his Blue Origin rocket, Jeff Bezos realizes his dream of space
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