Many of us “Boomers” who were growing up along with the space program dreamed of traveling into space atop one of those gigantic and powerful rockets. As it turned out a person needs pass a battery of physical and mental examinations just to qualify for the astronaut training program. That put the exciting trip into space out of the reach of most of us. Now that the “space race” has turned to private enterprise the door has been opened for future tourist trips to space, that is if you can afford the price tag.
Well is has finally happened. Four civilians, non astronauts, not only got the opportunity to make this historic trip but they actually have experienced it. Who are these lucky individuals and how did they get the chance to be first? Pictured above are Elon Musk (foreground) founder of of SpaceX, then L to R: Chris Sembrowski, Jared Isaacman, Sian Proctor, and Haley Arceneaux.
SpaceX has launched astronauts into space delivering them to the International Space Station, but this is the first time that the entire crew is made up of civilians which begins the era of space tourism. Jared Isaacman is the billionaire who foot the bill for the four of them to make this historic trip. Chris Sembrowski, a 42-year-old data engineer from Everett, Washington and Sian Proctor, a 51-year-old community college educator from Tempe, Arizona actually won their seats for this historic ride in a sweepstakes that was held to choose two of the passengers. The fourth person chosen is 29-year-old Haley Arceneaux, who works as a physician assistant at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. What makes her even more special is that she is a bone cancer survivor who was treated at the hospital where she now works. She is not only the youngest American to go into space, but she is also the first person with a prosthesis (a titanium rod implanted in her leg) to travel in space.
As if this trip weren’t special enough, Jared Isaacman who paid for the four of them to make this trip also presented, as an added bonus, a $100 million donation to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and asks that the public match his donation by giving money to the center. He has called the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule Inspiration4 in honor of Haley Arceneaux.
SpaceX launched the rocket with the Dragon capsule containing the first civilian crew to go into space on the evening of Wednesday September 15th. It was a spectacular nighttime launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida. Everything went off without a hitch and the Crew Dragon capsule separated from the booster rocket and attained orbit at 363 miles above the earth which is higher than the International Space Station’s orbital path.
The four passengers rode the autonomously controlled vehicle for three days without any serious problems. The main glitch was a problem with the fan in the waste management system which was taken care of with the help of the technicians back on Earth. The crew participated in a study of how the passengers’ bodies reacted to microgravity. They did exhibit motion sickness early on. They also watched a movie on an iPad strapped to Chris Sembrowski’s knee. Haley Arceneaux was able to talk to and see some of her patients at St. Jude and they could see her in the capsule. There was a spectacular view from the Crew Falcon capsule when the cone cover was opened and the clear dome of the cupola allowed for perfect viewing.
At the end of the historic three day flight, the evening of Saturday September 18th, the three parachutes were deployed and the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule made a successful splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Florida.
A picture of the crew just after their splashdown shows you just how happy they all were that the flight was successful and that they returned safely. A special kicker to this story is that Elon Musk himself announced that he is donating $50 million to the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. That donation when added to the initial $100 million donation from Jared Isaacman and the $100 million goal for donations from the public pushed the total well passed their goal. All in all a success for everyone. Who will be the next civilian space tourists? We’ll have to wait and see.
Let me know what you would like me to talk about or explain. You can comment below or email me at: [email protected].