SpaceX launches first all-civilian crew into orbit without professional astronauts

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 Cape Canaveral, Fla. SpaceX on Wednesday night launched four ordinary citizens into orbit with no professional astronauts along for the ride, an unprecedented feat in the history of spacecraft.

The five-hour launch window for Inspiration 4 opened at 8:02 pm. ET for launch from Kennedy Space Center's Launch Complex 39-A.

A specially modified Crew Dragon capsule sitting atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carries four private citizens as they wait to begin three days of Earth orbit, the first time an all-civilian crew will have orbited the planet.

Instead of climbing to the edge of space and returning to the ground in less than an hour, as Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin recently did, Inspiration 4 will orbit Earth and do so in a higher orbit than the International Space Station. Will do

Paying for it is Jared Isaacman, a 38-year-old billionaire high-school dropout who is promoting the flight as part of a massive fundraising effort for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.

Isaacman, a pilot qualified to fly commercial and military jets, struck a deal with SpaceX in late 2020 for the mission. Neither is saying how much it is paying SpaceX for the launch, although Isaacman has said it was less than the $200 million he hopes to raise for St. Jude.

"This dream began 10 months ago," Isaacman said at a news conference on Tuesday, noting how quickly the mission came together. "We set out from the very beginning to deliver a very inspiring message, certainly about the opportunity in space and what can be done there. But also what we can accomplish here on Earth."

Hayley Arsinaux, a physician assistant in St. Jude. He was treated for bone cancer in the hospital as a child.

Chris Sambrowski, an aerospace worker from Seattle, was selected from donations based on 72,000 entries for St. Jude.

Sean Proctor, a teacher and trained pilot who was a finalist in NASA's 2009 astronaut class.

How the first all-civilian spaceflight came together: Billionaires promoting flight as fundraising effort for St. Jude documented by Netflix

SpaceX and Isaacman unveiled their project to the world during the Super Bowl in February in a TV ad encouraging people to apply for the mission.

Netflix is ​​also documenting the team's preparation and flight for the series on its platform. While "Countdown: Inspiration 4 Mission to Space" is labeled a documentary series, it is more similar to reality television than a Ken Burns film.

Video cameras seemed to have been around the crew for months, ever since crew members first learned they were going into space (via zoom calls in which reactions varied from shock to tears). was capturing them, sharing the news with friends and family for a trip to the Kennedy Space Center to tour the launch pad where they will explode. It also includes video footage of Archinox as a 10-year-old patient in St. Jude.

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