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SpaceX Inspiration4 Launches Crew of Private Citizens into Space

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Elon Musk’s space exploration project SpaceX has launched its first crew of private citizens to space. Credit: Official SpaceX Photos, CC BY-C 2.0

SpaceX’s Inspiration4, a spaceflight manned by four ‘everyday citizens,’ has successfully launched into orbit from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida today.

SpaceX completed its launch during a livestream after the company tweeted “All systems and weather are looking good for today’s Falcon 9 launch of Dragon’s first all-civilian spaceflight.”

Liftoff of @Inspiration4X! Go Falcon 9! Go Dragon! pic.twitter.com/NhRXkD4IWg

— SpaceX (@SpaceX) September 16, 2021

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The Inspiration4 mission also doubles as a charity fundraising event for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. The organization, which functions as a children’s hospital as well as a research center for pediatric cancers and other serious illnesses, developed the fundraiser in coordination with billionaire Jared Isaacman. St. Jude’s will be auctioning off prizes centered around the crew’s upcoming mission to space as well as a meet-and-greet package with the four member team.

As part of the fundraising effort, a song that also exists as an NFT (non-fungible token) by the Kings of Leon will be played in space and later auctioned off. 66 pounds of beer hops will also travel on the mission, and when the hops return to Earth Sam Adams will use them to create the official, limited edition Inspiration4 beer. A ukulele played by one of the crew members and a portrait of the team on the cover of Time magazine will also be auctioned off.

Inspiration’s goal is to ultimately raise $200 million for St. Jude’s as well as performing researched “designed to advance human health on Earth and during future long-duration spaceflights,” the company said.

The team includes Isaacman — who is privately funding the trip — as well as a physician’s assistant at St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, data engineer Chris Sembroski, childhood bone cancer survivor Hayley Arceneaux, and artist Sian Proctor. Those who have contributed will have their pick of the prizes after Inspiration4’s launch, with the highest donations having their first choice of reward.

The team took off at around 8 PM on today according to plan after preparing this past Thursday with a follow-on readiness review and weather briefing, as per an official statement from the team:

“After evaluating the readiness of the Falcon 9 rocket, Dragon spacecraft, associated ground systems, recovery assets and other key elements of SpaceX’s human spaceflight system, and the current weather forecasts of conditions at the launch site, along the ascent corridor, and at the landing locations off the coasts of Florida for a safe return of the crew a few days later, teams agreed to now target no earlier than 8:00 p.m. ET on Wednesday, September 15 for liftoff,” the statement announced.

“This will allow additional time for final preparations, vehicle checkouts and data reviews. SpaceX and Inspiration4 will narrow down the launch window to five hours approximately three days before liftoff,” the statement added.

SpaceX’s historic mission follows Blue Origin’s July trip

SpaceX’s historic missions closely follows Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin’s July trip to space. But Blue Origin’s trip, which also contained a crew of four individuals, stayed in space for approximately five minutes, while SpaceX is aiming for three entire days in orbit.

The Blue Origin capsule hit speeds of more than three times the speed of sound before it reached 80 kilometers (about 262,000 feet), which is considered the edge of space. The fortunate crew, including Jeff and Mark Bezos, Oliver Daemen and Wally Funk — the first woman to undergo Astronaut training back in the 1960’s — floated in gravity for a couple minutes. The capsule returned several minutes later and landed under a set of parachutes.

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