SpaceX wants to put four private citizens into space, and two seats are up for grabs.
The "Inspiration4" mission, expected to launch no earlier than the fourth quarter of 2021, will be the world's first all-civilian spaceflight. The mission will send a Crew Dragon capsule whizzing around the Earth for three or four days.
On Monday, February 22, the group behind the mission announced that Hayley Arceneaux, a 29-year-old physician assistant at St. Jude's Children Research Hospital and a bone cancer survivor, would join the mission. She will be joined by Jared Isaacman, the founder and CEO of Shift4 Payments.
The final two passengers will be decided via a competition, and will be announced in March, according to reports.
The ad for "Inspiration4" played during one of the many commercial breaks during the Super Bowl LV game. In the ad, SpaceX explained how "You could be on board" (yes, you) the world's first all-civilian mission to space. All you have to do is win.
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Watch the full ad below:
The ad was directed by Bryce Dallas Howard and narrated by Oscar-winner Octavia Spencer. The music is Celeste's version of "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star."
The ad for this once-in-a-lifetime competition follows hot on the heels of the mission's announcement by SpaceX on February 1. Now, Elon Musk's firm has put the word out at the annual sporting event, which last year received 99.9 million viewers. That is a lot of competition, so here's everything you need to know in case you missed the clip or just need a recap:
- Inspiration4, as the video reveals, is set to take off no earlier than the fourth quarter of 2021 — so between September and December of 2021.
- Inspiration4 and its civilian crew will launch on a Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
- The capsule will spend between three and four days orbiting the Earth. The capsule will circumnavigate the globe once every 90 minutes. Then, it will return to Earth by landing in the water off the coast of Florida.
- Ahead of the flight, SpaceX will train the crew on how to use the rocket, the capsule, orbital mechanics, zero gravity, emergency preparedness, and other mission simulations.
The mission has two passengers chosen already: 37-year-old Jared Isaacman, founder and CEO of Shift4 Payments. Isaacman bought all four seats on the journey. One of the seats was reserved for someone with ties to St Jude's Children's Research Hospital — now confirmed as Arceneaux.
The other two are still free — and, as the ad explains, you can win one of them.
The Super Bowl clip is a sign of the emergent new era of spaceflight, when space is more accessible than ever before. SpaceX has worked to reduce the cost of spaceflight by landing its Falcon 9 boosters after missions, saving around three-quarters of the cost of the entire mission. With reusability, so the argument goes, comes greater democratization of what has been the preserve of well-funded government agencies.
The four-seater Crew Dragon is also helping to open up spaceflight to more players. The capsule was first developed to help NASA send astronauts to the International Space Station. The capsule completed its first crewed mission in May 2020 and its first non-test crewed mission in November 2020.
Beyond sending astronauts from NASA and other agencies into space, SpaceX also plans a series of private commercial flights:
- The Inspiration4 mission, set to take place no earlier than the fourth quarter of 2020.
- The Axiom Space AX-1 mission, taking place no earlier than January 2022. Last month, Axiom Space announced the four passengers for the trip.
- The Space Adventures mission, announced in February 2020, taking place sometime from late 2021 to mid-2022.
Inspiration4 mission: How to join the private spaceflight
Jared Isaacman, founder and CEO of Shift4 payments, is the first member of this mission. He is also a jet pilot who holds world records, including two speed-around-the-world records. Isaacman has also flown in over 100 airshows.
The other three passengers have codenames: Hope, Generosity, and Prosperity.
"Hope" is Arceneax, who was confirmed on the flight on Monday. Arceneaux is a 29-year-old physician assistant at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, which is located in Memphis, Tennessee. At 10-years-old, Arceneaux was diagnosed by the hospital with osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer. She received prosthetic leg bones during her treatment, which would have previously restricted her from becoming an astronaut.
Arceneaux's trip will make records: She will be the youngest American to orbit in space, and the first bone cancer survivor to go to space, too.
"I think this mission is going to inspire people in so many ways," Arceneaux told the BBC. "It shows them that anything is possible."
That leaves "Generosity" and "Prosperity" — and both are open to competition.
"Generosity" is one of the seats available to win. This seat on the spacecraft will go to a member of the public who supports St. Jude's via donation. Members of the public can enter by donating $10 or more to the research hospital, with 10 chances to win for every dollar donated.
There is a limit of 10,000 entries per person, no matter how you enter, however.
There are also a series of limitations on who can enter this competition. Entrants must be at least 18 years old and live in the United States. If you can't donate, then you can also enter without donating, as many times as they like up to 10,000, by filling in a form.
Seat number four is dubbed "Prosperity." This seat is reserved for "an inspirational entrepreneur" who has used the Shift4Shop e-commerce platform to launch an online business. You can sign up to the platform via the Inspiration4 mission website, thereby entering the raffle-style competition.
The competition for "Generosity" will end on February 28. The fourth seat will also be announced at that time.
All four passengers will be announced by March 2021, meaning the lucky winners should find out soon whether they will be going. Will it be you?
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