Mission pilot Sian Proctor says that fellow crew member Hayley Arceneaux had “been spinning from the moment we got to orbit,” just one part of the fun the crew had in space.
The passengers on the crew launched from Cape Canaveral on Wednesday to a perch about 335 miles above Earth — just five miles lower than the 2009 servicing mission to the Hubble Space Telescope which was the last time any spacefarers were this high up in orbit, and 80 miles above the International Space Station.
They were carried to space aboard a Crew Dragon vehicle from SpaceX. The mission was self-funded by Shift4 Payment founder and mission funder Jared Isaacman, and received no government funding — a first for orbital spaceflight.
The crew — Isaacman; St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital employee and cancer survivor Arceneaux; geoscientist and science communicator Proctor; and aerospace engineer Chris Sembroski — are performing medical experiments on behalf of the Translational Research Institute for Space Health (TRISH) at Baylor College of Medicine and a team at Weill Cornell Medicine.
Read more about the Inspiration4:
- What the crew’s interactions with Elon Musk reveal about SpaceX
- Ex-SpaceX manager says Inspiration4 is just the start
- Why it’s going to fly higher than the ISS
- Why Inspiration4 is “more challenging” than those Bezos and Branson flights
But they’re also taking time to do some comforting activities. Sembroski is playing a ukulele he brought along. Proctor is getting a chance to eat cold pizza in space. Everyone is taking a look out a large bubble window at the fore of the craft.
Due to their high orbit and swift speeds (orbiting the Earth once every 90 minutes, approximately), the group only had about 10 minutes to talk to folks on the ground Friday about their experiences. Here are 5 interesting takeaways.
5. The crew witnessed the aurora
For the first part of the livestream, Proctor and Arceneaux took viewers up to the cupola module. They passed over Europe, with the Earth shrouded in darkness at the time. Proctor reported seeing an aurora — one of the exquisite views from an orbital vantage point. However, it was difficult to discern in the video. Expect some photos later, we’re sure.
4. Sembroski played a few bars of his uke
Sembroski had a ukulele custom built for the mission, showing it off and playing a few bars of it in space. Though it wasn’t quite as epic as Chris Hadfeld’s “Space Oddity” performance, it was still reminder of the humanity underlying the mission.
3. The crew are testing out their microbiome
Throughout the mission, the four passengers are swabbing themselves regularly. It’s just one part of the multiple medical experiments taking place on the mission. The swabs are to test the changes in the group’s microbiome during their time in space. They’re also regularly measuring vision and circulation changes with a smartphone-enabled ultrasound they showed off during the stream.
2. Proctor is making art in space
Proctor showed off her art in space. She created the art using special metallic pencils, drawing a picture of a dragon encircling the Crew Dragon spacecraft. Given she’s already the mission pilot, a scientist, a science communicator, and more, it’s just another part of the bevy of her talents on display.
1. Their zero-g indicator wasn’t just a stuffed toy
When they went up on Wednesday, the crew used a stuff dog toy as their zero-g indicator — a common ride-along on space missions to indicate when a crew has reached microgravity. But Arceneaux says the dog toy — given its own tiny little costume — is actually a tribute to a series of dogs who are on-hand at St. Jude’s to reassure scared children. The dogs even sometimes go through CAT scan machines to prove to kids that there’s nothing to be afraid of.
Replicas of the stuffed dog were being sold as a St. Jude’s fundraiser, though a SpaceX representative hosting the stream indicated that they were sold out.