Preparations are coming to an end for SpaceX’s next crewed rocket launch. And while any crewed spaceflight is worth paying attention to, this one is especially exciting.
On September 12, SpaceX shared photos of the Falcon 9 rocket and attached Dragon crew capsule on NASA’s Launch Complex 39A — the same launch site that sent Apollo 11 astronauts to the Moon.
The Inspiration4 mission isn’t heading to the Moon, but it is an important milestone for space travel.
And while they’re not exactly following in Apollo 11’s footsteps, the crew will fly higher than the International Space Station and the Hubble Space Telescope.
The historic mission is helping to raise money for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Crewmember Hayley Arceneaux is a physician assistant for the hospital and a survivor of childhood cancer.
Carrying the crew into orbit will be SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket. The reusable rocket is key to SpaceX’s future, lowering the cost of successive launches.
Atop the Falcon 9 sits the equally impressive Crew Dragon capsule. For Inspiration4, Dragon will operate autonomously (though the crew can take control if something goes awry).
Since Inspiration4’s Dragon capsule won’t be docking with the ISS, SpaceX replaced its docking system with a domed window, giving the crew a view no one but a handful of astronauts has ever had before.
That view should help pass the three days the civilian astronauts will spend in the cramped quarters of the Dragon together before splashing down off the coast of Florida.
The five-hour launch window starts at 8 p.m. Eastern.