Inspiration4 could be SpaceX’s most important mission yet — but its CEO is taking a hands-off approach.
On Tuesday, September 14, the space-faring firm is scheduled to launch the world’s first all-civilian mission to orbit. The four-person team will launch with a Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon capsule from Cape Canaveral in Florida, orbit the Earth in the capsule for three days, and return to Earth with a splashdown capsule landing in the ocean.
The mission is pivotal in the emergent new space race, with key players focused on opening up space to more than just an elite few. But speaking with Inverse on August 31, two of the Inspiration4 crew members revealed they’ve had little contact with SpaceX CEO Elon Musk.
That seems rather odd, considering the nature of the mission — but it’s also par for the course, and Musk’s Twitter feed suggests he is occupied with other projects.
After all, Inspiration4 is only the beginning of Musk’s larger goal to make humanity into a multi-planetary species.
Want to know more about Dr. Sian Proctor, what makes Inspiration4 unique, and the dramatic spaceflight changes SpaceX is heading? Read the full interview with professor Sian Proctor and CEO Jared Isaacman, only in MUSK READS+.
Inspiration4: Who is going?
Inspiration4 is funded by Jared Isaacman, founder and CEO of Shift4 Payments. The mission is aimed at raising awareness and funds for the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Three other passengers will join him:
- Hayley Arceneaux, who will be the first person with a prosthetic body part to go into space. Arceneaux works at St. Jude’s, the same hospital where she received treatment for cancer.
- Chris Sembroski, who served in the U.S. Air Force and now works in the aerospace industry. Sembroski won the seat through a competition.
- Sian Proctor, a geoscientist and science communications specialist. Proctor won the seat by using the Shift4Shop e-commerce platform to sell space-themed art and clothing.
Inspiration4: Has Elon Musk spoken with the crew?
Isaacman tells Inverse during the interview that he had a chance to speak with Musk “briefly” twice: once at the start of the project and again around “a month or so ago.”
“I try not to talk to him too much about the mission or really talk to him at all, for that matter, because he's a big brain, very cerebral guy,” he says. “He's constantly thinking about how to solve the world's problems, and I don't want to interrupt that thought process.”
Proctor, who joined the project later after winning her seat, says that she has “not yet” spoken to him.
“I'm looking forward to when we do because it's his vision that has gotten me this opportunity along with what Jared has put together,” she says. “Getting that opportunity to show my gratitude and thankfulness is something that's important to me.”
Musk is clearly passionate about the project — he appears in the new Netflix documentary Countdown: Inspiration4 Mission to Space. He speaks warmly about what the mission means for SpaceX’s overall goals.
So what is keeping Musk occupied? Most likely Starship, the under-development rocket designed to make vehicles like the Falcon 9 obsolete. Where the Crew Dragon can carry four people into space at a time, the fully-reusable rocket is designed to carry up to 100 people at once.
It’s designed to take over existing Falcon 9 missions while also enabling more ambitious ideas like a city on Mars.
The rocket is gearing up for its first orbital launch later this year. Work is underway at the Starbase facility in Texas, preparing the prototype rocket and booster for launch.
Musk currently has a photo of the under-construction prototype pinned to his Twitter feed:
The Inspiration4 team has received a sneak peek at these plans. On August 29, Isaacman indicated on Twitter that he got an aerial tour of Starbase. John Kraus, the Inspiration4 photographer that joined for the flight, indicated that the mission team joined for the ride.
While the mission will be a big step for SpaceX, Musk is also focused on what comes next.
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