For the first time, four tourists took off into space independently for several days on a rocket from the US space company SpaceX owned by Tesla founder Elon Musk. The Falcon 9 rocket lifted off shortly after 8 p.m. local time (2 a.m. CEST) from the Cape Canaveral spaceport in the US state of Florida.
There is no professional astronaut on board the mission named “Inspiration4”; the “Dragon” space capsule flies largely automatically and is supposed to orbit the earth for three days – every 90 minutes at around 30,000 kilometers per hour.
Around twelve minutes after take-off, the space capsule with the passengers detached itself from the second stage of the rocket’s propulsion system. It is said to be up to 575 kilometers from Earth and thus further than the International Space Station ISS. “The views are spectacular,” said 38-year-old US billionaire Jared Isaacman, who chartered the flight.
During the all-excursion, which is also being documented on the Netflix streaming service, the four passengers will also carry out scientific experiments. After their excursion, the space tourists are supposed to land off the coast of Florida.
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Isaacman, who chartered the flight, said: “Few have gone before us and many will follow.” Neither he nor SpaceX wanted to reveal how much Isaacman paid to charter the “Dragon” spaceship. With the mission he wants to collect donations for a children’s hospital in the US state of Tennessee.
Isaacman’s three fellow travelers were selected in a competition and accompanied for a Netflix documentary. After surviving cancer as a child, 29-year-old medical assistant Hayley Arceneaux is the youngest American woman to fly into orbit. Chris Sembroski, 42, is a US Air Force veteran and Sian Proctor, 51, is a geoscientist who was nearly selected as a NASA astronaut in 2009.
Isaacman is already the third billionaire in a few months to venture into space from the United States. In July, British billionaire Richard Branson and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos flew into space with their private space companies Virgin Galactic and Blue Orgin.
SpaceX has already brought ten astronauts to the ISS space station on behalf of the US space agency NASA, but has not yet transported any space tourists. The current mission “Inspiration4” goes much further than the flights of Virgin Galactic and Blue Orgin, on which the passengers were only a few minutes in space.
The start of the “Inspiration4” mission is “a significant milestone in the striving to make space accessible to all,” commented the US space agency Nasa, which provided the launch infrastructure but was not otherwise involved, on Twitter. SpaceX speaks of the “first mission to orbit the earth with only laypersons” – there is no trained professional astronaut on board.
“Our crew is responsible and knows the importance of this mission,” Isaacman said shortly before the start. Accordingly, all four would have prepared well for the challenges of the next three days. “Few have gone before us and many will follow,” he also explained. The SpaceX control center also assured the four passengers shortly before take-off: “Today you really inspire the world.” (dpa, AFP)