Space X kicked off its first-ever crewed mission to orbit, without professional astronauts on-board, launching four citizens to space, at 8:02 PM ET, Wednesday (5:32 am, Thursday IST).
Named Inspiration4, the mission marked the start of private space companies, like Elon Musk’s SpaceX to normalise paid space travels for normal citizens, as tourists and not only trained government astronauts.
SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket lifted off on time at 8:02 PM ET from the company’s 39A launchpad at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, over Florida’s east coast.
Inside the spacecraft, there were, billionaire entrepreneur Jared Isaacman, a trained pilot and founder of payment-processing firm Shift4 Payments, and three others he picked and paid for to ride with him, Hayley Arceneaux, a 29-year-old physician assistant and cancer survivor, Christopher Sembroski, a data engineer at Lockheed Martin and Sian Proctor, a geoscientist and former NASA astronaut candidate.
The crew was put in SpaceX’s Crew Dragon Resilience capsule at the top of the rocket, which is reusing the spacecraft that sent four government astronauts to the International Space Station nearly a year ago.
However Inspiration4 won’t dock into the International Space station, it is supposed to roughly spend three days, orbiting the earth, at a higher altitude which is somewhere around 360 miles above the ground, which is the highest human spaceflight since the last NASA space shuttle mission to repair the Hubble telescope in 2009.
Nine minutes after liftoff, Falcon 9’s first stage booster returned to Earth, landing on a barge in the Atlantic Ocean. After a few minutes, the Crew Dragon capsule separated from the rocket’s second stage as it was leaving Earth’s atmosphere, sending the Inspiration4 crew further toward orbit. The capsule will now continue to use intermittent thruster firings, to raise its orbit.
The mission is also a multimillion-dollar fundraiser for St. Jude Children’s Hospital, a non-profit research centre that also provides free care for kids with cancer. Isaacman gave $100 million to the hospital and hopes to raise another $100 million through the Inspiration4 initiative. So far, that portion of the campaign has raised $30.8 million.
The Crew Dragon capsule is a tailored more touristy experience than what NASA astronauts have on their trips to the ISS. The docking door of the capsule was replaced with a glass dome to give the crew a 360-degree view of space, while in space. Although the glass dome has not been tested, the SpaceX team claimed that it was put through a rigorous testing and qualification process before validating it as safe for flight.
Exactly when the capsule will return to earth depends on the weather around the coast of Florida. The mission is for three days, but the capsule can stay in orbit for a week.
Supratik Mitra is a student of political science at the University of Delhi.
While completing college, he continues to work as a reporter, working with many
media houses previously. He is interested in Indian politics and Science and
Technology and is also an avid policy researcher. He reports and writes articles
on national news, science and tech news, and health news.
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