USA TODAY International Edition
You can win a seat on the SpaceX Dragon
A tech billionaire will command Space X’s first all- civilian launch to orbit later this year, the company said Monday, but the mission includes a twist: Members of the public can enter to fly in one of Crew Dragon’s seats.
Jared Isaacman, a payment systems entrepreneur and avid pilot, confirmed he purchased a Crew Dragon mission from SpaceX for a multiday trip around Earth slated to launch from Kennedy Space Center before the end of the year. The 37- year- old is the founder of Shift4 Payments and worth about $ 2 billion, according to Forbes’ real- time database of billionaires.
SpaceX is well- known for twists – Elon Musk did launch his own Tesla to deep space, after all – so this Inspiration4 mission is allowing members of the public to join the trip that will complete an Earth orbit every 90 minutes. Isaacman has partnered with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, in an effort to raise $ 200 million or more for the facility.
“If we’re going to continue making advances up there in space, then we have an obligation to do the same down here on Earth,” Isaacman told reporters during a Monday teleconference.
“That’s why Inspiration4 endeavors to mobilize the biggest fundraising and awareness campaign in the 59- year history of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.”
Of the four seats on Crew Dragon:
One goes to Isaacman, who will h command and pilot the mission.
■ The second seat, labeled “Hope,” will go to a front- line health care worker from St. Jude. Isaacman confirmed a woman will fly as a representative for the hospital but did not confirm her identity.
■ Named “Generosity,” the third seat will go to a member of the public who donates to St. Jude at inspiration4. com. Packages include $ 10 for 100 entries and run up to $ 100,000 for 10,000 entries, VIP viewing tickets and aerobatic flights in a retired Russian MiG fighter.
■ The final “Prosperity” seat will go to an entrepreneur who uses Isaacman’s online shopping platform, Shift4Shop, to set up a website and share the story via Twitter.
Though already open to donations, the Inspiration4 fundraising effort will begin in earnest during the Super Bowl on Sunday when a commercial aired during the game’s first quarter will invite people to learn more at inspiration4. com. An announcement of winners is expected in a month.
All four crew members will be trained for the mission directly by SpaceX. That includes emergency preparedness, spacesuit and spacecraft ingress and egress, and simulations at the company’s headquarters in Hawthorne, California.
The Crew Dragon vehicle that will take Inspiration4 to orbit is already there: Resilience, which launched astronauts Victor Glover, Mike Hopkins, Shannon Walker, and Soichi Noguchi to the International Space Station in November, was selected for this fully commercial flight. Its destination will strictly be Earth orbit – no visits to the ISS, for example.
Musk told reporters Monday that, for the most part, people who can handle “The Incredible Hulk” roller coaster at Universal Orlando should be able to manage a ride on Crew Dragon. All “dragon riders” will go through standard medical screenings before launch.
Whether or not non- U. S. citizens will be able to fly, however, remains to be seen.
“This is an important milestone towards enabling access to space for everyone,” Musk said. “It’s only through missions like this that we’re able to bring the cost down over time and make space accessible to all.”
Musk confirmed missions such as this one – profitable flights on SpaceX’s reusable spacecraft – will allow his company to continue funding Starship and Super Heavy, the next- generation deep space vehicle being built in Texas.