SpaceX has successfully launched its first all-civilian crew to space.
A Falcon 9 rocket carrying the four crewmembers on the Inspiration4 mission lifted off at just after 8 p.m. ET from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
During the rapid ascent, cameras inside the Crew Dragon capsule showed the space travelers exchanging fist bumps and offering a thumbs up to people watching the launch at home.
Liftoff of @Inspiration4X! Go Falcon 9! Go Dragon! pic.twitter.com/NhRXkD4IWg
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) September 16, 2021
Jaared Isaacman, Hayley Arceneaux, Dr. Sian Proctor, and Chris Sembroski will stay in orbit for around three days, during which time they’ll conduct an array of scientific experiments while also taking in the awesome views from the spacecraft’s glass observation dome.
The Crew Dragon spacecraft will orbit 358 miles (575 km) above Earth, more than 100 miles higher than the International Space Station.
The mission marks the first time for a spaceflight company to carry a crew made up entirely of non-professional astronauts. In preparation for the trip of a lifetime, the four Americans spent the last six months going through intensive training that included all aspects of the mission from launch to landing, as well as team building exercises that involved climbing part of Mount Rainier in Washington.
Isaacman secured the mission in a private deal with SpaceX. The founder of payment processing company Shift4 Payments said at the outset that he wants to use the endeavor to raise funds for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee.
Interest in the Inspiration4 mission prompted Netflix to announce a docuseries featuring the crew preparing for their historic flight, as well as their time in space and the return to Earth later this week.