SpaceX is making the final preparations for Wednesday night’s launch that will send the first all-civilian crew into orbit.
With the spectacular backdrop of their Falcon 9 rocket on the launchpad at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the crew looked relaxed as they took part in a 50-minute Q&A session (below), responding to a range of questions from reporters.
The Inspiration4 mission is being led by Shift4 Payments founder Jared Isaacman, who secured the first all-civilian flight in a private deal with SpaceX. Isaacman has always said that his main purpose is to use the mission to raise awareness and funds for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee.
Flying alongside him will be Hayley Arceneaux, a 29-year-old physician assistant who’s set to achieve a slew of records during the mission, including the first bone cancer survivor to travel to space, the first person to head to orbit with a prosthetic body part, and the youngest American to orbit Earth.
The two other crew members include trained pilot Dr. Sian Proctor who will become the first black female Mission Pilot on a space mission and the fourth black female to travel to space, and Christopher Sembroski, a U.S. Air Force veteran who works for Lockheed Martin and who acquired his seat through his support for St. Jude.
The crew will fly aboard the first Crew Dragon spacecraft to feature an observatory dome at its tip, a design modification made possible as the vehicle won’t be docking with the International Space Station (ISS) and therefore has no need for an attachment mechanism.
When the Crew Dragon reaches orbit, it’ll mark the first time that SpaceX has had three Dragon spacecraft in orbit at the same time, with two others currently docked at the ISS.
The Inspiration4 mission will also send the Crew Dragon to its highest altitude to date, orbiting 358 miles (575 km) above Earth. That’s higher than the Hubble Space Telescope, which orbits Earth at 335 miles (540 km), and much higher than the International Space Station, which orbits at 253 miles (408 km). With that in mind, the four space travelers are set to enjoy some spectacular views of our planet and beyond.
But there’ll be much work to do during the three-day mission besides simply gazing at the stunning scenery, as the crew members will also spend time conducting various science experiments for researchers back on Earth.
The mission will mark the fourth crewed outing for SpaceX and its Crew Dragon capsule, with the Q&A session revealing that the company would like to move toward launching as many as six crewed spacecraft a year.
But for now all eyes are on Wednesday’s highly anticipated launch. To watch a livestream of the early stages of the mission, check out this Digital Trends article that includes everything you need to know.