Inspiration4 Makes History And Breaks Records As It Successfully Reaches Orbit

Long exposure of the launch of Inspiration4. Image Credit: Inspiration4 / John Kraus CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Inspiration4, the historic first space mission with a completely non-professional all-civilian crew, blasted off from the Kennedy Space Center last night and is now successfully in orbit, further from Earth than humans have been in over a decade.

The four crew members, Jared Isaacman, Hayley Arceneaux, Christopher Sembroski, and Dr Sian Proctor not only made history, but also helped break the record for most number of humans in orbit at once there has ever been. (Sorry Branson, you didn't reach orbit, so your team doesn't count.) 

The crew launched from the historic pad that launched the Space Shuttle and Apollo 11's Moon mission at 8:02 pm ET on September 15 in a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule. The success of the launch means there are currently 14 humans residing in orbit – the Inspiration4 crew, the seven inhabitants of the International Space Station (ISS), and the three taikonauts on board Tiangong, the Chinese space station – breaking the record of 13 set in 1995 and 2009.

The Crew Dragon capsule will be in orbit around the Earth with an altitude of 575 kilometers (357 miles), about 160 kilometers (100 miles) higher than the ISS. The orbit is even slightly higher than the location of the Hubble Space Telescope, which was last visited by a crew mission with the Space Shuttle in 2009.

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The crew of Inspiration4 will stay in space over the next few days conducting medical experiments and recording health data about themselves. As they haven’t gone through the rigorous training professional astronauts undergo, there could be some interesting insights into the effect their short jaunt to space might have on their bodies.

Crewmember Hayley Arceneaux is also the first person with a prosthesis to go to space and Dr Sian Proctor is the first-ever Black female spacecraft pilot and the fourth black woman to have flown to space, both making history and paving the way for making space travel more accessible and inclusive.

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One of the goals of the Inspiration4 mission – besides SpaceX typically pushing the boundaries of commercial space travel further than ever before – is raising money for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. Isaacman, the billionaire founder and CEO of payment processing company Shift4 Payments, bankrolled the mission and donated $100 million. The mission team hopes to double that with charitable donations, including taking a wide-ranging list of items to space to auction off later.

“Our crew carries the responsibility and importance of this mission as we prepare to blast off,” Isaacman said in a statement just before launch. “We have been well-prepared for the challenges ahead of us the next three days and look forward to sharing our experience with the world as we continue to bring attention to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital® here on earth.”

The mission is expected to splash down in the Atlantic Ocean on September 19. 

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