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Meet the first fully civilian crew about to orbit Earth in SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule


A SpaceX Dragon capsule carrying four astronauts splashed Sunday morning off the coast of Florida, the first night dive for an American crew in over half a century. That same capsule will make history in the fall, when it transports the first fully civilian space crew into orbit for the Inspiration 4 mission.

“It’s like totally sacred ground,” said mission commander Jared Isaacman, Mark Strassmann of CBS News above historic Launch Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center. “Everyone who has launched from the moon has launched from this facility.”

The launch pad supported the Apollo program flights to the space shuttle and will now put four Americans into orbit – a billionaire, a childhood cancer survivor, a science instructor and an engineer.

Isaacman, a 38-year-old billionaire who dropped out of high school at 16 to start a payments technology company, owns and flies fighter jets as a hobby.

When the new commercial era of the space opened, he expressed interest as a potential client. He chartered a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft, which will orbit more than 300 miles above Earth – higher than the International space station – for three days.

The billionaire paid the company an undisclosed price for the four seats. Three went to complete strangers.

“When I found out that Inspiration 4 was going to be the first fully civilian mission to space, well there was no way it was a bunch of fishing buddies going on a merry ride. It is something important, of responsibility. And we were going to make it really special, ”Isaacman said.

Each seat will represent a human virtue – Isaacman calling himself “leadership.”

He donated two of the remaining three seats to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, which specializes in pediatric cancers.

Medical assistant Hayley Arceneaux is one of the recipients.

“St. Jude called me one day. They told me they had something to tell me, ”she recalls.

At 29, Arceneaux would become the youngest American to fly in space.

“They asked me if I wanted to go, and right away I said yes. And then, you know, I checked with my mom – she was on board, ”laughed Arceneaux. “I knew from that moment on that it was absolutely something, like a dream I didn’t even know I had.”

In 2002 Arceneaux was a patient in St. Jude. She was 10 years old and was being treated for bone cancer.

She recovered after chemotherapy and surgery, with a titanium rod in the left thigh bone. She now works in the same hospital that saved her life.

Its seat in the capsule will represent “hope”.

Arceneaux said the plan was to call St. Jude’s young patients from space.

“They’re going to see that someone who was in their shoes, who’s also fought childhood cancer, can go to space. And I think that’s really going to show them what they’re capable of,” she said. declared.

Sian Proctor, who teaches science at a community college in Phoenix, said she believed her space dream was over after being dismissed as a finalist in the NASA Astronaut Program.

Proctor secured a ticket to board Inspiration 4 by winning an entrepreneur competition – its seat represents “prosperity”.

She said she would never forget the moment her dream of going to space was rekindled.

“I use the analogy of Willy Wonka and you open the chocolate bar and there’s the Golden Ticket, or Harry Potter learning he’s a wizard,” Proctor said.

“I can ride a dragon in space.”

Chris Sembroski, a 41-year-old engineer from Seattle, won the fourth seat in an online raffle to raise funds for St. Jude’s.

While Sembroski lost the raffle, his friend won and gave him the chance. This last seat will represent “generosity”.

He remembered the moment he had discovered it.

“I ran upstairs after the call to talk to my wife and said, ‘Honey, I’m going to ride a rocket.’ And his response was, “What? And my daughter setting there said, “This is awesome. This is really cool, daddy.” Sembroski said.

The theft will go down in history – but Isaacman hopes it will bring in some money as well, as a fundraiser for St. Jude’s.

His goal is to raise $ 200 million for the hospital.

“We have a responsibility to take care of some of these issues here on Earth if we are to go exploring among the stars,” he said.

Isaacman himself has already donated $ 100 million to St. Jude’s.

“I know how lucky I have been in life. The ball has bounced in my way several times. Some of these families have had a terrible hand in life,” he said. “So we have to do something about it. That’s why it has to be such a big initiative.”

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