Last call: Contest for first private trip on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon ends soon

Independent panel to select who will fly on SpaceX’s first private space trip

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the company's Crew Dragon spacecraft onboard is seen on the launch pad at Launch Complex 39A after being rolled out overnight as preparations continue for the Crew-1 mission, Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2020, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. (NASA/Joel Kowsky, (NASA/Joel Kowsky)\r\rFor copyright and restrictions refer to -�

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. – The stakes are high, about 200 miles high, for fundraisers, YouTubers and creative space enthusiasts vying to be on board the first private trip to orbit Earth in a SpaceX Crew Dragon.

The Inspiration 4 contest established by Jared Isaacman, the CEO of Shift4 Payment, will send four private citizens to low-Earth orbit later this year in the spacecraft. Two of the four crew members are already known: Isaacman and 29-year-old St. physician assistant Hayley Arceneaux, who is a bone cancer survivor now fighting the disease for others at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

The remaining third and fourth passengers will be selected by an independent panel who will have a tough time as the applications have been anything but ordinary. The seats were open to anyone in the U.S. who wanted to apply. Interested space travelers could enter the competition by either donating to St. Jude or using Shift4Shop to share their business stories on social media. The deadline for final entries is this Sunday.

After the competition opened Feb. 1, some hopeful contestants have done both, using the Shift4Shop platform and raising money for children’s cancer research all in one fell swoop.

Brevard County launch photographer John Kraus, 21, threw his hat in the ring raising nearly $10,000 for St. Jude with his original photography.

Science communicator and host of the Netflix show Emily’s Wonder Lab, Emily Calandrelli, used her social media platform to raise money for St. Jude by making personalized videos for children. She hopes to make the first TikTok from orbit and become the first West Virginian in space.

MaryLiz Bender, a space communicator with Cosmic Perspective and musician, wants to use her spaceflight experience to inspire other artists.

In her video, standing in front of the SpaceX Starship prototype in Texas, she described her journey battling homelessness and says she never thought she would have a chance to visit space.

George Trosset, the founder of Surfing Santas, wants to bring the Cocoa Beach tradition into space becoming the first St. Nick in orbit.

Dr. Dian Proctor, also known as the space chef, was a finalist for the NASA astronaut class in 2009 and hopes to get another shot to leave the planet with this flight. Proctor, a geoscientist, combined space art and poetry for her Shift4Shop website.

Aspiring astronaut and author Abigail Harrison, 23, hopes to become the youngest person to go to space on the Inspiration 4 flight. Now a Wellesley College graduate Harrison began speaking about her dreams to become an astronaut at 13 years old. At 18, she founded a nonprofit called The Mars Generation with the goal of inspiring the next generation of space explorers.

SpaceX CEO and founder Elon Musk said his company is targeting the fourth quarter of this year to launch the Inspiration 4 flight on a multi-day journey in the Crew Dragon spacecraft. The four-person crew will launch from Kennedy Space Center’s launchpad 39A.

The winners will train with Isaacman and Arceneaux before their spaceflight, the prize, including the spaceflight, is estimated to be worth $50 million. Isaacman said the winners will not be paying taxes on the winnings.

On Sunday, after the application deadline a panel of judges will review the top entries of the Shift4Shop social media contest “to identify a business owner or entrepreneur that exhibits ingenuity, innovation, and determination to join the crew of Inspiration4,” according to the competition organizers.

The independent panel includes Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, Fast Company Editor in Chief Stephanie Mehta, Science YouTuber Mark Rober and executive producer of the show Bar Rescue, Jon Taffer.

“One of the things that has helped me in my career is making sure I am working with the best people possible, which is why I want to make sure we work with the right judges to select the best fit possible for the Prosperity seat,” Isaacman said of the panel. “The caliber and resumes of the four judges helping us select this seat have transformed industries and driven innovation on a number of fronts, and I could not think of a better team to help us find the best person to help us make history.”

The final crew members will be revealed at

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