A US billionaire who made riches in tech and fighter jets is buying an entire SpaceX flight and plans to bring three people onboard with him to circle the globe this year.
Jared Isaacman is the founder of Shift4 Payments, a credit processing firm, is launching the Inspiration4 mission in the hopes of raising 200 million dollars amount for St. Jude Research Hospital, based in Tennessee, with half coming from his own pocket.
The four-person expedition will take off in SpaceX’s Dragon craft later this year from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida and orbit around Earth – the length of the flight is yet to be revealed to the public. A St. Jude health care worker has already been chosen and anyone donating to the hospital during February will be entered into a random selection for seat number three, and the fourth will go to a business owner who utilizes Shift4 Payments.
‘I truly want us to live in a world 50 or 100 years from now where people are jumping in their rockets like the Jetsons and there are families bouncing around on the moon with their kid in a spacesuit,’ said Isaacman. ‘I also think if we are going to live in that world, we better conquer childhood cancer along the way.’
Details of the ride in a SpaceX Dragon capsule are still being planned, including the duration the four will be in the orbit after flying off from Florida. The Inspiration4 crew will not be going into space without any preparation, but will receive commercial astronaut training by SpaceX on the Falcon 9 launch vehicle and Dragon spacecraft, orbital mechanics, operating in microgravity, zero gravity and other forms of stress testing before traveling into the last frontier
Following the announcement of SpaceX Founder and CEO Elon Musk told NBC News’ Tom Costello, ‘Any mission where there’s a crew onboard makes me nervous.’ He added, ‘The risk is not zero.’ ‘When you’ve got a brand new mode of transportation, you have to have pioneers. Things are expensive at first, and as you’re able to increase the launch rate, increase the production rate, refine the technology, it becomes less expensive and accessible to more people.’ ‘We’ll all be with Jared on the journey and we’ll be seeing it in real time. It’s an important milestone on the road toward making access to space more affordable.’
During the multiple day journey, the crew will revolve around Earth once every 90 minutes following a designated flight path and once completed, the capsule will re-enter the atmosphere and splash down in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Florida. However, this is not the first time civilians have traveled to space, it is the first mission completely manned by average people and it is the latest private space travel announcement.
Just last month Aximo Space Aviation and SpaceX announced it would send three businessmen to the International Space Station – and each has paid $55 million for a seat. The crew members Larry Conor, Mark Pathy and Eytan Stibbe, will be led on the mission by retired NASA astronaut Michael López-Alegría, who has been to space four times and is now the vice president of Aximo Space.
The mission is set for January 2021, which will send the three men and a retired astronaut aboard a SpaceX Dragon. Isaacman would not reveal how much he is paying SpaceX, except to say that the anticipated donation to St Jude ‘vastly exceeds the cost of the mission’. While a former NASA astronaut will accompany the three businessmen, Isaacman will serve as his own spacecraft commander.
The attraction, he said, is learning all about SpaceX’s Dragon and Falcon 9 rocket. While the capsules are designed to fly autonomously, in an emergency a pilot can override the system A ‘space geek’ since young age, Isaacman dropped out of high school when he was 16, then he started a business in his parents’ basement that became the start for Shift4.
He set a speed record for flying around the world in 2009 while raising money for the Make-A-Wish program, and later established Draken International, the world’s largest private fleet of fighter jets. His 100 million dollar (£73 million) donation to St. Jude in Memphis is the largest by a single individual and one of the largest overall.
‘We’re pinching ourselves every single day,’ said Rick Shadyac, president of St Jude’s fundraising organisation.
Besides SpaceX training, Isaacman wishes to take his crew on a mountain expedition to imitate his most uncomfortable experience so far — camping on the side of a mountain in bitter winter conditions.