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History: SpaceX Inspiration4 Launches Successfully For First All-Civilian Orbital Mission

History: SpaceX Inspiration4 Launches Successfully For First All-Civilian Orbital Mission

Historic three-day flight devoted to raising $200 million for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

The SpaceX mission Inspiration4 lifted off successfully from Florida on Wednesday night, becoming the first all-civilian orbital mission.

The Falcon 9 rocket carried the Crew Dragon capsule into a mostly clear night sky as planned at 8:02 p.m. EDT from Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center.

“The Inspiration 4 have lifted off, and they are now in orbit around the Earth,” a SpaceX commentator said during a broadcast.

Cheers erupted from several groups gathered at NASA buildings around the property. A last bit of sunlight lit up the rocket’s contrail briefly as it ascended.

The crew could be seen on camera waving and clasping hands. SpaceX’s first-stage booster returned successfully to land on a barge in the Atlantic, and the second stage separated successfully, leaving the capsule alone in space.

The team even brought a stuffed mascot to enjoy a spectacular view of the Earth.

While SpaceX’s live webcast ended after reaching orbit, company officials said before signing off that the all-civilian crew were expected to get their first look outside through the Dragon’s massive new cupola window, so they may be gazing at Earth for awhile.

The team’s medical officer Hayley Arceneaux, a 29-year-old physician’s assistant at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, unveiled an adorable stuffed toy puppy called Jude as the crew’s zero-gravity indicator after reaching orbit. The toy represents the golden retriever dogs Puggle and Hucklebery at St. Jude and is wearing a spacesuit. You can find a replica of the puppy here to support St. Jude.

In fact, the historic three-day flight’s goal is to raise $200 million for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

[Billionaire and Mission Charterer Jared] Isaacman said the flight marked an “inspiring” first step toward opening up the high frontier to civilian use.

“We set out from the start to deliver a very inspiring message, certainly what can be done up in space and the possibilities there, but also what we can accomplish here on Earth,” he said.

That included “the largest fundraising effort in the history of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, acknowledging the real responsibilities we have here on Earth in order to earn the right to make progress up in space,” he said. “And I feel like we’re well on our way to achieving that objective.”

The crew plans an in-flight event with patients at St. Jude and will carry out a battery of medical tests and experiments throughout the mission, including use of an ultrasound device to help measure headward fluid shifts caused by the onset of weightlessness.

Fluid shifts, interactions with the neuro-vestibular, or balance, system and other reactions trigger space motion sickness in about half the astronauts who fly in space, an uncomfortable malady that typically fades away after two to three days as the body adapts to the new environment.

“Space sickness is one of the interesting things that this mission is going to explore, just like all the NASA missions that have gone before,” said Todd Ericson, a former Air Force test pilot who is helping manage the Inspiration4 mission for Isaacman.

The crew has now flown higher than anyone has flown since the last shuttle mission to the Hubble Space Telescope in 2009. Here’s hoping they land safely in three days. It would be great to have some good news to report this week.


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Call me cynical, but how does spending billions on a ego trip devalue into two hundred million?

Why not give ’em the big sum?

If you want to make a small fortune in aviation you start with a large one

I want to know why these ultra wealthy folk suddenly have a great urge to rocket off into orbit. Are they meeting with aliens?

StillNeedToDrainTheSwamp | September 16, 2021 at 5:54 pm

If you have Netflix, go watch Countdown. You might feel differently after watching it.

I don’t think this is an ego situation – and the billionaire in this case is doing a good thing IMHO.

Besides, it’s his money. He earned it. And while I may not care for Musk, I think SpaceX is a good thing and has in all likelihood saved us (the taxpayers) money for what they’ve done for NASA. And speaking of money, there’s no indication that I can find that this isn’t entirely privately funded.

StillNeedToDrainTheSwamp | September 16, 2021 at 5:57 pm

To clarify, the billionaire for this launch is Jared Isaacman, and not Musk.

The capsule has a larger window than the ISS and is higher in altitude than any mission since 1999. So there are some cool things about this.