Called Inspiration4, this mission is to conclude a summer marked by the flight of billionaires over the last frontier: first, Richard Branson on July 11, aboard the Virgin Galactic ship, then, a few days later, Jeff Bezos, with his company Blue Origin.
SpaceX’s billionaire tourist is called Jared Isaacman. He is a 38-year-old American, the boss of a financial services company and a seasoned pilot. But he did not found the company allowing him to make the trip. It simply rents its services, for a price that has not been disclosed, but which should amount to several tens of millions of dollars.
“The risk is not zero”
Because the mission has nothing to do with the experience of just a few minutes offered by Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin. This time, it’s about going to fly further than the International Space Station. “The risk is not zero,” admits Jared Isaacman in one of the episodes of the documentary broadcast by Netflix on the mission. “You are traveling in a vessel at 28,000 km / h around the globe. This kind of environment is associated with a certain risk ”.
Elon Musk’s company has already transported no less than ten astronauts to the ISS on behalf of NASA. But they will be the first private passengers to board the Dragon capsule, launched by the Falcon 9 rocket.
Take-off is scheduled for Wednesday, from 8 p.m., on the American east coast (2 a.m., Thursday, Paris time). Another launch opportunity is planned for Thursday if the weather conditions require it.
“Are we going to the moon?” “
In addition to Jared Isaacman, captain, three anonymous will be on the trip, selected through an original process that began with an advertisement projected during the Super Bowl halftime. Each seat is meant to embody a value.
For example, Hayley Arceneaux, survivor of pediatric cancer, represents “hope”. She will be the first person with a prosthesis to go to space and surely the one who is least linked to this universe. “Are we going to the moon?” She asked when the opportunity was presented to her. And after discovering that no: “Apparently, we haven’t been there for decades! It’s something I learned, ”she laughs in the documentary.
Several months of training
The crew trained for several months. They experimented with the g-force to which they will be exposed through a centrifuge – a rapidly rotating arm of several meters. On board parabolic flights, they were also able to taste a feeling of weightlessness. And they did a high altitude snow trek on Mount Rainier in the Northwestern United States.
Finally, they spent time on SpaceX premises, although the flight would normally remain fully automated.
Three days in orbit
During the three days in orbit, their sleep, heart rate and cognitive abilities will be analyzed. Tests will be carried out before and after the flight, to study the effect of the trip on their body.
The idea is to accumulate data for future private passengers. Because the stated goal of the mission is to open the doors of space to a greater number – although these remain for the moment only partially open for a privileged few.
“In all of human history, fewer than 600 human beings have made it to space,” Jared Isaacman recalled. “We are proud that our flight can help all those who fly after us.”