Billionaire, cancer survivor… SpaceX set for all-civilian crew


WASHINGTON: For the first time on Wednesday, SpaceX is due to send into orbit a crew made up entirely of complete novices, without a professional astronaut on board. The four passengers are supposed to embody the opening-up of space to everyone, giving the mission its name: Inspiration4. A billionaire, Jared Isaacman, is behind the project. It was he who chartered the mission, at his own expense, inviting three anonymous people to join him, via a rather original selection process. Each seat has been assigned to represent a specific value.
Isaacman, 38, is the CEO of e- commerce firm Shift4 Payments. The mission was conceived mainly to raise support for one of his favourite causes, St. Jude Children Research Hospital. His seat represents “leadership”.
Accompanying him will be physician assistant Hayley Arceneaux, a former patient of the hospital who was treated for bone cancer as a child. At 29, she will be the youngest American to be sent into orbit around earth, and the first person with a prosthesis to go into space. She will be the mission’s “medical manager “and Her seat represents “hope”. Geoscientist Sian Proctor, 51, won her seat, which represents “prosperity”, by creating an online sales site linked to space as part of a contest by Isaacman’s company. Proctor, once a Nasa astronaut candidate, will be only the fourth African American woman to go into space. Chris Sembroski, a US air force veteran who served in Iraq and now works in aeronautics sector, was selected for his donation at St Jude fundraiser. His seat represents “generosity”.
The Inspiration4 crew will have no part to play in operating the spacecraft, despite some largely honorary titles — Isaacman is mission’s “commander” and Proctor is mission’s “pilot” considering they both are licensed pilots. The four will ride in a fully automated Dragon capsule, the same kind that SpaceX uses to send astronauts to and from the International Space Station for Nasa. But the chartered flight won’t be going there. Once in orbit, the crew will perform medical experiments with “potential applications for human health on Earth”.
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