A first-ever all-civilian space mission launched today from Launch Complex 39A at NASA Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The goal of this flight was to raise awareness and money for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital and to inspire people all over the world.
In partnership with SpaceX and Shift4Payments, this flight shows how accessible space is getting.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket propelled the Crew Dragon spacecraft off the launch pad and took off without a hitch and soared into the night sky, gaining altitude rapidly for orbit.
In the next few minutes, SpaceX mission controllers awaited updates. People from all over the world watched the many live streams.
The view from Dragon’s cupola (not cupholder) via @SpaceX on Twitter
This mission represents several milestones. In addition to being the first all-civilian spaceflight, it is also the first free-flight Crew Dragon mission and the first crewed orbital mission that will not dock with a space station since the final Hubble mission in 2009 (STS-125).
They're shooting for an orbit of approximately 575 km, farther than anyone's flown since Hubble, for an expected mission duration of about three days.
Jared Isaacson, the benefactor and CEO of Shift4Payments, was the commander and benefactor of the mission. Professor Sian Proctor, a geoscientist, science communicator, and analog astronaut, joined him.
The SpaceX flight taking four tourists on an extraterrestrial expedition has also helped raise more than $147 million for children’s cancer research, and aims to bring in $200 million total.
Jared Isaacman, the 38-year-old billionaire who paid for the space trip and is commanding the mission, pledged to donate $100 million to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital when he announced plans for the flight in February. Isaacman set a goal of using the publicity around the flight, dubbed Inspiration4, to raise an additional $100 million for St. Jude, a Memphis, Tenn., hospital where children receive free cancer treatment.
The mission's medic was Physicians Assistant (PA) Hayley Arceneaux, while the mission's specialist was retired US Air Force officer Chris Sembroski.
Apparently they “... represent the mission ideals of Leadership, Prosperity, Hope, and Generosity,” which is massively lame. What’s not lame is the money raised by this mission will fund life-saving research at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital because of their commitment and participation.
Arceneaux went to St. Jude for treatment for bone cancer as a child and now works as a PA there.
“Our crew carries the responsibility and importance of this mission as we prepare to blast off. We have been well-prepared for the challenges ahead of us the next three days and look forward to sharing our experience with the world as we continue to bring attention to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital® here on earth," said Isaacman just before launch.
The Falcon 9 second stage carrying the dragon capsule to orbit lit up by our sunset. The orange glow is sunset and the blue glow transition is Earth's beginning twilight.
Photo Credit: @erikkuna for @superclusterhq
At 2m 45s into the mission, the first stage separated, followed by the second stage igniting its Merlin engine. Five minutes in, the first and second stages started picking up light from the Sun, which created a "jellyfish effect" in the sky.
As the first stage fired its cold gas thrusters to reorient itself, it produced a flashing effect in the sky. It created a stunning visual display of bright lights in the night sky.
By 7m 30s, the first stage had re-ignited its engines for its reentry burn, and by 9m 40, it had landed on SpaceX's drone ship Just Follow the Instructions. Ten minutes after launch, the second stage reached 200 km and prepared to deploy the Dragon spacecraft.
The crew of Inspiration4 went into orbit at 12:15 minutes in, when Resilience detached and slowly moved away from the second stage.
The cabin cameras showed Isaacson and Dr. Proctor tending to the Resilience's flight terminals while the crew was strapped into their seats. After the Crew Dragon separated from the spacecraft's second stage, Dr. Proctor and Sembroski fist-bumped each other, and Dr. Proctor gave the thumbs up to the camera a few times throughout the flight.
The first look at the crew in orbit, from left: Jared Isaacman, Hayley Arceneaux, Chris Sembroski (eyes closed for some reason), Sian Proctor.
After launch, the crew nose cone of Resilience was opened to reveal the cupola (instead of the docking adapter).
The main goal of the mission is to raise awareness and money for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, which specializes in pediatrics and cancer research. Just the live stream brought in US$300,000 for cancer research for kids.
Richard C. Shadyac Jr., the President and CEO of the American Lebanese Syrian Associated Charities (ALSAC) - the fundraising group for St. Jude's - says that's just the tip of the iceberg.
"We are thankful to Jared for his incredible leadership as the commander of the historic mission and for his work helping to raise $200 million for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. The significance of Inspiration4 cannot be overstated. The mission ushers in a new era in citizen space travel and gives hope to children.
"Cancer is diagnosed each year in about 400,000 children worldwide. Curing catastrophic diseases in children is a multi-trillion-dollar, multi-year problem and the public's support – through initiatives like Inspiration4 – makes it possible for us to raise the critical funds needed to help save children everywhere."
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