On the night of Wednesday to Thursday, a rocket from the company SpaceX will take off from Florida to go into space. Aboard this 70-meter-high machine, perched in the Dragon capsule, a crew not quite like the others will go into orbit around the Earth for three days.
Coming from civil society, these passengers make this mission, called Inspiration4 by Elon Musk’s company, a first in the history of space travel …
How will the theft go?
Takeoff is scheduled for Thursday at 2 a.m. (12:02 a.m. GMT Thursday) from the legendary NASA Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The launch window is five hours. If you don’t like sleeping, you can watch it live from the SpaceX site. Once in the air, at an altitude of about 80 km, the first stage will separate, and will come back to land on Earth.
The Dragon capsule will then stay in space for three days. It will go further than the ISS, which rotates at an altitude of 400 km, aiming for an orbit of 575 km. It will then begin a vertiginous fall towards the Earth, and will land off the coast of Florida, slowed down by immense parachutes.
Why is this mission exceptional?
The flight of the Falcon 9 rocket will be the fourth manned flight of the SpaceX Company’s Crew Dragon. Nothing new, then. But the exceptional nature of this Inspiration4 mission lies elsewhere. “There have already been orbital tourists, but this is the first time that non-professional passengers are not accompanied by astronauts”, explains Christophe Bonnal, researcher at the National Center for Space Studies (Cnes). It is for this reason that the flight will normally be fully automated. Passengers were still trained by SpaceX to be able to take control of their ship in an emergency.
“Second thing, apart from the presence of a billionaire and seasoned pilot, the passengers are a bit Mister and Madam Everyone. They do not look like the archetype of the astronaut, ”adds the expert. Moreover, unlike astronauts who train for years before leaving for space, the passengers have been trained for less than six months. They experimented with weightlessness in parabolic flights, or g-force in a centrifuge. They also had to do a high altitude snow trek on Mount Rainier in the northwestern United States.
Who are the four lucky ones?
Four people, two men and two women, will travel aboard the Dragon capsule. The first passenger is a 38-year-old American billionaire. Boss of a financial firm, Jared Isaacman is also a seasoned pilot. It was he who fully financed the flight, and therefore offered the other three seats to anonymous.
The second is the youngest American to be sent into orbit around the Earth. Hayley Arceneaux, 29, works as a medical assistant at St. Jude’s Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. It was here that she was also treated for cancer when she was little. She is also the first person with a prosthesis to travel to space.
The third is a 51-year-old earth science teacher. Sian Proctor will be only the fourth African American woman to go to space. Twice, she had tried to become an astronaut at NASA, even finishing among the finalists in 2009.
The last passenger is named Chris Sembroski. This former US Air Force who served in Iraq was selected after making a donation as part of the fundraiser for St-Jude Hospital. 42 years old, he now works in the aviation industry.
What will be their mission on board?
“They are not going to do anything except a few experiments, slice Christophe Bonnal. In and of itself, there was no reason to send them up there from a scientific point of view. It has nothing to do with Thomas Pesquet’s travels. But for Elon Musk, this first flight allows us to say that the colonization of space by humans has begun. According to the CNES, this theft represents an unnecessary risk-taking. “Space is dangerous. About twenty astronauts have died since the start of the conquest of space, ”adds Christophe Bonnal.
For its part, the company SpaceX will observe how complete novices react to the space environment. Their sleep, heart rate, blood and cognitive abilities will be analyzed. Tests will also be carried out before and after the flight. SpaceX also recalls on its site that the Inspiration4 mission aims to raise funds of 200 million dollars, organized by Jared Isaacman for sick children at St-Jude Hospital.
What future does this open for space tourism?
If the flight goes smoothly, it will usher in a new era for space travel. According to Christophe Bonnal, this kind of luxury tourism is likely to develop. “The problem is not the money: there are 2,200 billionaires and 50 million millionaires (in the world). The problem is, there aren’t enough flights! Currently, there is more demand than supply. “