A 37-year-old businessman has bought four tickets to space with SpaceX and plans to take along three everyday people with him all while raising money for sick children.
SpaceX CEO and founder Elon Musk announced Monday the company is targeting the fourth quarter of this year to launch civilians into low-Earth orbit on a multi-day journey in the Crew Dragon spacecraft. The four-person crew will launch from Kennedy Space Center’s launchpad 39A.
The first all-civilian spaceflight is paid for by Shift4 Payments CEO and founder Jared Isaacman. The businessman donated three seats to the general public and plans to announce who the lucky three will be in 27 days. Anyone who wants to fly with Isaacman can donate to St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital at Inspiration4.com or share an inspirational business story on Twitter for a chance at the estimated $50 million seat.
One seat will go to a frontline health care worker and another will go toward a person who donates to St. Jude. A third seat will go to an entrepreneur using Shift4 Payments to set up a website.
Isaacman, a billionaire who made a fortune in tech and fighter jets, aims to use the trip to raise more than $200 million for St. Jude.
The four seats onboard the spacecraft represent four virtues including generosity, prosperity and hope, according to Isaacman.
At least one of the other passengers already knows about the upcoming trip. The crew member who represents hope is a St. Jude’s health care worker who has already been notified of her upcoming flight.
“I know she’s looking forward to the launch as much as me,” Isaacman said.
“I believe that in the future, everyday people will explore amongst the stars, and we will live in a world where a constellation of satellites connects us and even the most far-reaching places where people will travel from point A to B in minutes, not hours or days, and where families will live together on lunar and Martian colonies,” Isaacman told reporters during a call Monday. “But before that, we better have defeated some of life’s greatest hardships, St. Jude’s mission is not about rockets or space exploration, it’s about treating some of the most heart-wrenching conditions that any parent could imagine.”
The sweepstakes is open only to U.S. residents over 18. Isaacman and SpaceX will announce the three other passengers on Feb. 28.
Musk said anyone could potentially ride Dragon. SpaceX will conduct medical screenings but Musk said “if you are able to go on say, like, the Hulk ride in Florida” you should be fine for flying on Dragon.
SpaceX said the first all-civilian launch will include multiple days in space orbiting Earth every 90 minutes in a “customized flight path.” After the journey, the Dragon spacecraft will splashdown off the coast of Florida.
Musk said the spaceflight will last at least two full days but could be up to four.
“This is an important milestone towards enabling access to space for everyone because at first things are very expensive and 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 said.
Once in zero-G, Isaacman said he hopes to spend some of the time doing research for St. Jude and other institutions. There is a long waitlist for researchers trying to send their science to the International Space Station.
“Right now we’re in the big outreach phase, as you know, getting payload into orbit there’s a heck of a waitlist for education institutions, health care providers and such so we basically, you know, started dialing around and let everyone know this is an option and share your ideas with us,” Isaacman said.
We're thrilled to announce our historic partnership with the world's first all-civilian mission to space @inspiration4x, to be commanded by Shift4 CEO @rookisaacman.— Shift4 Payments (@Shift4Payments) February 1, 2021
Learn more at https://t.co/CHJbWVgiDs and stay tuned for updates. 🚀 pic.twitter.com/h0bES4gbe8
The spaceflight is also a very expensive marketing campaign. Isaacman said Shift4 Payments bought a Super Bowl ad spot that will air during the first quarter of the game inviting people to learn about the mission and checkout the Shift4 Shop and launch an online store.
After the all-civilian spaceflight crew is announced, Isaacman plans to train with them, including some team bonding.
“I am going to ensure that I introduce some very uncomfortable and stressful situations here on Earth long before we go up in space,” Isaacman said. “I’m a little bit of a mountain climber and I intend to get four people in a tent that I can attest is absolutely smaller than the Dragon spacecraft on a mountain when it’s snowing out and introduce everybody to really stressful situations.”
After extensive training, the CEO said he expects he and his fellow space explorers “are all going to know each other incredibly well long before we ever strap into Dragon.”
Last May, SpaceX became the first private company to successfully launch astronauts to the International Space Station and return them safely home. Since NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley’s historic spaceflight, the Crew Dragon has now shuttled four other astronauts to the ISS with plans for two more astronaut launches this year for NASA and its international partners.
Axios Space recently announced it has purchased a private spaceflight from SpaceX and four international businessmen will fly in Crew Dragon in early 2022. The trip will include a stay on the space station.
Check back for updates on this developing story.