On the first privately funded, non-government mission to orbit, the Inspiration4 mission an all-civilian crew raced into space atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, a historic three-day flight devoted to raising $200 million for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
Chris Sembroski, an “everyday” aerospace engineer; Sian Proctor, an artist-educator who will become only the fourth Black woman to fly in space; and Hayley Arceneaux, a St. Jude cancer survivor who now works at the hospital, were among those strapped in with billionaire Jared Isaacman, who chartered the mission.
At 8:02 p.m. EDT, the Falcon 9’s first stage engines fired, brightening the early evening sky as the booster thundered away from pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center atop 1.7 million pounds of thrust.
Meanwhile, the first stage swung around and landed perfectly on an off-shore drone ship, marking SpaceX’s 92nd successful booster recovery, and its 69th at sea.
After the spacecraft separated, Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA’s former chief of space operations and now a senior SpaceX management, radioed the crew, saying, “We gave you a great journey to orbit.” “Enjoy your stay in space, and we hope to see you travel with SpaceX again soon.”
“I’m thinking of all the young kids who’ll be looking up to this crew and dreaming big due to them,” former first lady Michelle Obama tweeted shortly after the launch, expressing her gratitude to all onboard.
It was an honor getting to speak with @DrSianProctor and the incredible #Inspiration4 crew. They're inspiring us all with their courage, curiosity, and passion. I'm thinking of all the young people who'll be looking up to this crew and dreaming big thanks to them. Ad astra! 💫🚀 pic.twitter.com/6uAyFI2Z5D
— Michelle Obama (@MichelleObama) September 16, 2021
Before the launch, Isaacman contributed $100 million to St. Jude, half of a $200 million fundraising goal.
According to Isaacman, the flight was an “inspiring” first step toward civilian use of the high frontier.
“We set out from the beginning to send a very exciting message, not only about what can be done and the potential up in space but also about what we can accomplish here on Earth,” Isaacman said.
The commercial Inspiration4 mission is a non-government operation carried out by SpaceX for a paying customer, Isaacman, unlike NASA missions, which use open space-to-ground communications throughout.
In another tweet, SpaceX stated that the Inspiration4 crew members “I had a fantastic first day in space! Since launch, they’ve performed more than 15 orbits around the Earth, making full advantage of the Dragon cupola.”