Inspiration4 mission is a success: SpaceX sets new standard for space tourism

24th Sep 2021
Inspiration4 mission is a success: SpaceX sets new standard for space tourism

The Inspiration4 mission, launched on 15th Sept. 2021 with a crew consisting of four space tourists or civilian astronauts, marks the first instance in history where untrained crew broke through the Earth’s atmosphere; the team landed safely back on Earth on 19th Sept. 2021.

A rocket launch aimed at inspiring hope in humanity

Jared Isaacman, a billionaire tech entrepreneur and leader of the Inspiration4 mission crew, announced ten months ago that he would be among the first wave of space tourists to fly into space without professional astronauts on board. Isaacman has had a long-time love for space and has spoken openly about his space tourism ambitions.

To set himself apart from other billionaires flying into space, Isaacman organised a fundraiser to choose the three lucky people who’d get to fly on the Dragon rocket. All proceeds from the fundraiser were donated to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Hayley Arceneaux was chosen to fill the first space tourism seat on the mission. Ms. Arceneaux is a physician’s assistant working for St Jude. She is also a cancer survivor and former patient at the hospital. Hayley became the youngest American to fly into space and the first to do so with a metal rod in her leg due to surgery.

The second seat was given to Chris Sembroski, winner of a special raffle organised during the Superbowl event this year. A 30-second ad was aired during the Superbowl, urging people to take part, with the winner guaranteed a spot on the first all civilian space tourism launch. The auction managed to raise over $13 million, which was donated to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

The third and final seat was awarded to Sian Proctor, a geoscientist and professor at Southern Mountain Community College in Phoenix. The young professor pulled all her efforts into selling her art and poetry to raise awareness for the hospital and generate donations.

SpaceX and the crew hope that the success of the latest space tourism mission would inspire ordinary people around the world to look up to the stars and believe in something greater than themselves. A representative for SpaceX said that the company is relying on the rocket launch mission to open a new era of space travel where regular civilians, not just astronauts, can travel to space. Gwynne Shotwell, president and COO of SpaceX, said in an interview that the all-civilian astronauts are paving the way for a future of more accessible space. This brings us one step closer to a new generation of people with easy access to space.

The Inspiration4 mission crew flew on a Dragon Resilience rocket

The Dragon rockets were designed to be completely autonomous and to require minimum to no input from the crew. The responsibility of flying the rocket was placed on the land SpaceX crew, although the civilian astronauts did receive training and a crash course on how to pilot the rocket in case of an anomaly during the rocket launch. The Dragon, along with Boeing’s Starline, was selected by NASA as the main means of transporting crew to and from space. Before the Russian space shuttle program was discontinued in 2011, NASA had to rely on the Soyuz spacecraft. With so many companies turning their interests to space travel, the agency has many options when it comes to choosing a reliable spacecraft for such a notable rocket launch.

The crew flew on a specialised Dragon Resilience, which is a modified version of the regular Dragon rocket. To prepare for the flight, the rocket received several upgrades, including a cupola (large dome window). The cupola serves as the main observatory and is a miniature version of the iconic windows on the space station. In a prelaunch interview, Hayley Arceneaux stated that she is really excited about the upcoming rocket launch and wants to see the Earth from space.

The first space tourism trip is a success: four civilian astronauts return from orbit

The Dragon landed safely into the ocean off the coast of Florida on 19th Sept. The crew seemed slightly rattled but ultimately happy as they emerged from the spacecraft before being picked up by helicopter and taken back to Florida.

Inspiration4 mission commander, Jared Isaacman, said to thousands of viewers over SpaceX’s livestream that the journey was very exciting.

Apparently, while the rocket launch and flight into orbit had gone according to plan, there had been some slight issues that had rattled the crew. It seems that there had been a few issues with the waste management system’s fan onboard the vessel. The SpaceX team had responded with a speedy resolution by implementing ‘a backup plan.’

Benji Reed, SpaceX director of crew mission management, clarified that there had been some issues with the waste management system, but everything worked out well. Eventually, everything went great, and the crew came back both happy and healthy.

Another issue during the notable rocket launch apparently occurred with a temperature sensor on one of the thrusters used to move the capsule in outer space. Since the indicator had been ‘redundant,’ the crew had simply switched it offline.

Despite these errors, NASA officials have come forward with a statement that the Crew Dragon rocket is most likely the safest rocket ever flown. This particular Dragon rocket has already made two successful trips into outer space with professional astronauts and will most likely be ready to deploy a fourth time in the near future.

Inspiration4 mission crew feeling a bit shy after their return

Any and all issues occurring during these early travels are of vital importance to SpaceX and NASA, since precautions can be taken to reduce the likelihood of additional errors popping up in the future. However, when trying to approach both SpaceX and NASA for an in-depth update on the Inspiration4 mission crew during their trip, the public was left mostly in the dark. During previous Crew Dragon missions, the public had been given regular updates, but this mission left a lot of people mostly in the dark. Even after the crew landed safely back on Earth on Saturday, they only offered a few smiles and waves before retreating away from the public eye.

There could be many reasons for the attitude of the crew. Firstly, the experience of leaving Earth’s orbit and soaring through space for several days, only to plummet back to Earth at 17,000 miles per hour, can put stress on anyone. Considering that professional astronauts take years to prepare for the journey, it is understandable why the crew wants to take a little time to process the experience.

Another reason for shying away from the public is space travel’s effects on a human’s body. A NASA research paper states motion sickness and restlessness as two major issues that astronauts experience after leaving and entering Earth’s orbit. It’s quite possible that the four space tourists want a little time to collect themselves.

Whatever the reason, the Inspiration4 mission crew owes the public an insight into their experience, if not for science’s sake, then for the fact that it is a part of history.

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