The crew members for the world's first all-civilian spaceflight have now been chosen. Their mission is not only to inspire support for the mission of St. Jude Children's Research Hospital but also to inspire us all.
In early February, SpaceX announced that they would be launching a new 'first' for spaceflight in late 2021. Inspiration4 is the very first all-commercial mission to space. It will fly four civilian astronauts on one of the company's Crew Dragon spacecraft on a multi-day trip in low-Earth orbit sometime later this year. The four seats on this historic flight represent the four pillars of St. Jude Children's Hospital - Leadership, Hope, Generosity and Prosperity. As of last week, all four seats are now filled.
The Inspiration4 crew — left to right, Chris Sembroski, Hayley Arceneaux, Dr. Sian Proctor, and Jared Isaacman — stand in front of Launch Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center. Photo by SpaceX
Sitting in the Leadership seat is Jared Isaacman, the founder and CEO of Shift4 Payments. Isaacman, who is a licensed pilot, is also funding the entire flight to space and back.
The seat representing Hope is occupied by Hayley Arceneaux, a 29-year-old physician assistant at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. Arceneaux, herself, is a childhood cancer survivor who was treated at St. Jude for osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer, when she was 10 years old.
Haley Arceneaux, the St. Jude Ambassador chosen to occupy the Hope seat on this mission, stands in front of Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center. Credit: SpaceX
"It's an incredible honour to join the Inspiration4 crew. This seat represents the hope that St. Jude gave me — and continues to give families from around the world, who, like me, find hope when they walk through the doors of St. Jude," Arceneaux said in an Inspiration4 press release. "When I was just 10 years old, St. Jude gave me the opportunity to grow up. Now I am fulfilling my dreams of working at the research hospital and travelling around the world. It's incredible to be a part of this mission that is not only raising crucial funds for the lifesaving work of St. Jude but also introducing new supporters to the mission and showing cancer survivors that anything is possible."
The person chosen for the Prosperity seat is Dr. Sian Proctor. A geoscientist, artist, and science communicator, Dr. Proctor was a finalist for NASA's 2009 astronaut selection process. She is also an analog astronaut, having participated in four mock space missions. These included the all-female Sensoria Mars 2020 mission at the Hawai'i Space Exploration Analog and Simulation (HI-SEAS) Habitat, the NASA-funded Mars mission at HI-SEAS to investigate food strategies for long-duration spaceflights, plus two other missions at the Mars Desert Research Station and the LunAres Moon Habitat.
Geoscientist Dr. Sian Proctor will serve as the Mission Pilot on this space flight. Credit: SpaceX
"I am thrilled to be part of the historic Inspiration4 crew and to represent the Prosperity seat," Dr. Proctor said. "Going to space has always been a dream of mine, and being able to inspire the world through art and poetry makes it even more special for me."
"This opportunity is proof that hard work and perseverance can pay off in unimaginable ways," I have always believed that I was preparing for something special, and that moment has arrived with Inspiration4."
The final seat, representing Generosity, is now filled by Chris Sembroski. A U.S. Air Force veteran, Sembroski now works for aerospace company Lockheed Martin. After donating to the St. Jude fundraising campaign at the core of the Inspiration4 mission, Sembroski's name was chosen from around 72,000 sweepstakes entries.
Chris Sembroski poses in front of Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center, the launchpad where he will lift off into space later this year. Credit: SpaceX
"Although I've been fortunate to have spent years in the aerospace industry, I never imagined having the opportunity to reach the stars, especially through something as simple as supporting St. Jude," Sembroski said in the press release. "I am honoured to occupy the Generosity seat and look forward to using this platform to encourage everyone to be generous to others in whatever ways they are able."
"Joining the Inspiration4 crew and its mission of support for St. Jude is truly a dream come true. It is my hope that this flight will inspire others to pay that generosity forward by pledging their support for St. Jude and encouraging kids to dream the impossible, ushering in a new era of space exploration open to all."
According to Inspiration4, Sembroski will act as Mission Specialist during the flight, helping maintain communications with ground control and handling any payload and science experiments the crew brings with them.
"Inspiration4's goal is to inspire humanity to support St. Jude here on earth while also seeing new possibilities for human spaceflight," Isaacman said a statement. "Each of these outstanding crew members embodies the best of humanity, and I am humbled to lead them on this historic and purposeful mission and the adventure of a lifetime."
Jard Isaacman sits in a Crew Dragon capsule on a visit to SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorn, Calif. Credit: SpaceX
FARTHEST CREWED FLIGHT SINCE 2009
Unlike previous Crew Dragon launches, the Inspiration4 mission is not headed for a rendezvous with the International Space Station.
Instead, Isaacman, Arceneaux, Proctor and Sembroski are expected to spend roughly three days flying around Earth on board the Dragon spacecraft. There, they will circle the planet once every 90 minutes on a custom-planned orbit at an altitude of 540 kilometres above the ground.
That will make this the farthest human spaceflight mission since the 2009 Space Shuttle Atlantis mission to service the Hubble Space Telescope, which reached an altitude of 578 km. For comparison, the International Space Station typically orbits at 420 km above Earth's surface.