Space tourism is taking a new turn. Elon Musk’s company, SpaceX, will send four passengers for three days in space on Wednesday, September 15. It is the first mission to send into orbit around the Earth only complete novices, without a professional astronaut on board. Here’s what you need to know about the Inspiration4 mission.
Three days in space on the program
Some go to Normandy for a weekend. Others now travel to space for three days. In any case, this is the program of the Inspiration4 mission. Take-off is scheduled for Wednesday, September 15, from 8 p.m. (Thursday at 2 a.m. in France) from Florida. Another launch opportunity is planned the next day, if the weather conditions require it.
Passengers will take off from the legendary launch pad 39A, at NASA’s Kennedy Center, Florida, where the Apollo missions to the moon took off. They will embark in a Falcon 9 rocket and will then stay in the Dragon capsule for three days. Suffice to say that the mission has nothing to do with the experience of a few minutes offered by Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin. This time, it’s about going to fly further than the International Space Station. Just that.
A crew of novices (for the first time)
This space mission has one particularity, and not the least. It will be the first to send into orbit around the Earth only complete novices, without a professional astronaut on board. Elon Musk’s company has already transported no less than 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.
This 100% tourist mission was chartered by billionaire Jared Isaacman, at his expense. This American 38-year-old boss of a financial services company is also a seasoned pilot. But he did not found the company allowing him to make the trip. He simply rents the services, for a price that has not been disclosed, but which runs into tens of millions of dollars.
In addition to Jared Isaacman, captain on board, three anonymous will be on the trip, selected through an original process that began with an advertisement projected during the Super Bowl halftime. Each seat is meant to embody a value. Hayley Arceneaux, survivor of pediatric cancer, represents “hope”. The 29-year-old was selected because she works as a medical assistant at St Jude’s Pediatric Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee.
Chris Sembroski, 42 ans, got the seat of the “generosity”. It’s about d’un former US Air Force employee who now works in the aviation industry. Finally, the last seat represents the “prosperity”, and was offered to Sian Proctor, a 51-year-old earth science professor who, in 2009, almost became an astronaut for NASA.
A training of several months
Compression stockings will not be sufficient for this mission. The crew trained extensively before they could fly into space. Its four members experienced the g-force to which they will be exposed thanks to a centrifuge, a rapidly rotating arm of several meters. On board parabolic flights, they have already tasted a feeling of weightlessness. They also did a high altitude snow trek on Mount Rainier in the northwestern United States.
Finally, future passengers spent time on SpaceX’s premises, although the flight would normally remain fully automated. 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.
A Netflix series to follow the adventure
The passengers did not plan a photo album to remember this three-day getaway, but a Netflix series. Four episodes of this series entitled Countdown: four tourists in space have already been uploaded to the platform. A fifth and final episode is planned when the mission returns, if all goes well.
“The risk is not zero”, Jared Isaacman acknowledges in one of the episodes of the documentary released by Netflix about the mission: “You are traveling in a vessel at 28,000 km / h around the globe. This kind of environment comes with some risk.”
The start of space tourism on a larger scale
The mission Inspiration4 must conclude a summer marked by the flight of billionaires over the last frontier: first Richard Branson on July 11, aboard the Virgin Galactic ship, then a few days later Jeff Bezos, with his company Blue Origin . But this new mission must above all prepare the future of space tourism. The idea is to accumulate data for future private passengers and to open the doors of space to a greater number of very wealthy tourists. And this despite the criticisms surrounding the development of these trips to space, the cost of which for planet Earth is astronomical: as The Conversation specifies, a single trip to orbit by a space tourist emits so much CO2 than a motorist for 160 years …
Several tourist mission projects are already underway. In January 2022, three businessmen will travel to the ISS alongside an experienced astronaut. SpaceX is also planning another trip to orbit for four private clients, organized by intermediary company Space Adventures. Finally, the Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa must also take a trip around the Moon, a priori in 2023, this time aboard the Starship rocket, still under development by SpaceX.
As for Virgin Galactic, the start of regular commercial operations is scheduled for 2022. Russia, for its part, will send an actress and a director to the ISS, aboard a Soyuz rocket. The goal: to shoot the first fiction film in orbit and in zero gravity.