SpaceX makes history, launches 4 amateurs on private Earth-circling trip

SpaceX, an aerospace company founded by Elon Musk, launched the Inspiration4 mission with a rich sponsor, two contest winners, and a health care worker, the most ambitious leap yet in space tourism. It was the first time a rocket streaked toward orbit with an all-amateur crew no professional astronauts.

The Falcon 9 rocket took off from the Kennedy Space Center pad which was used by the company’s three previous astronaut flights for NASA. This time the Dragon capsule aimed to travel to an altitude of 357 miles (575 kilometers), just beyond the Hubble Space Telescope. The Dragon capsule’s two men and two women are looking to spend three days circling the world from an unusually high orbit 100 miles (160 kilometers) higher than the International Space Station before splashing down off the Florida coast this weekend. It’s SpaceX founder Elon Musk’s first entry in the competition for space tourism dollars. The flight is lead by 38-year-old Jared Isaacman, founder and chief executive officer (CEO) of payment processor Shift4 Payments Inc. Hayley Arceneaux, 29 is a childhood cancer survivor who works as a physician assistant at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis. Arceneaux became the youngest American in space and the first person in space with a prosthesis, a titanium rod in her left leg. Issac chose the rest of the crew himself through a competition where Chris Sembroski, 42, a data engineer in Everett, Washington, and Sian Proctor, 51, a community college educator in Tempe, Arizona filled the spots. Their fully automated capsule has already been to orbit.

It was used for SpaceX’s second astronaut flight for NASA to the space station. The only significant change is the large domed window at the top in place of the usual space station docking mechanisms. Now I just wish we pushed them to go higher, Isaacman told reporters on the eve of the flight. If we’re going to go to the moon again and we’re going to go to Mars and beyond, then we’ve got to get a little outside of our comfort zone and take the next step in that direction.