NASA astronauts know that going to space means, among many other things, training in a centrifuge — a spinning machine that simulates G-forces on the body. Fighter jet training does the same thing.
But the new Netflix documentary on the Inspiration4 mission shows that astronaut training was a moment of truth for the all-civilian crew. Or at least the three of them who are not billionaires and don’t own their own fighter jets.
Jared Issacman, who bought the rocket ride to space from SpaceX as a fundraiser for St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital did fine, he’s used to this. He owns several fighter jets.
But Chris Sembrowski, a Lockheed Martin data engineer from Washington state who will fly as the Mission Specialist, lost his lunch.
“They had flight psychiatrists there evaluating us on the screens while it was taking place and then afterwards doing an interviews,” Issacman said. “This has implications to us as humans and to SpaceX. What if it goes wrong?”
The three also struggled climbing snowy Mt. Rainier.
It was meant to be a high-pressure team-building exercise. They hiked for nine hours up to 10,000 feet.
At the end, Sembrowksi said in the documentary he was about to break down.
Dr. Sian Proctor, who is the Mission Pilot, said it was the hardest hike of her life.
And Hayley Arceneaux, the Mission Medical Officer and a childhood cancer survivor said the entire hike she worried about the prosthetic rod in her leg breaking. It had broken twice before after it was implanted at the age of 10 when a section of her leg bone was removed.
She said she learned from the exhausting hike never to limit herself.
Issacman said he is relying heavily on Proctor’s experience as a private pilot.
“When things go wrong, Dragon is designed for the crew, specifically for myself and Dr. Proctor, to take control and come home safely,” Issacman said.
Proctor is also a former college professor, a geologist, an artist and what NASA calls an “analog” astronaut. She’s done several long-duration field tests in remote parts of the world that simulate living on the moon or other planets.
Proctor is also a NASA astronaut candidate finalist and only the fourth African American woman to head to space.
When she goes Wednesday night, Proctor has said she will take with her a thank you note from Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong to her dad.
“I’d like to think space has been in my DNA,” Proctor said. “I was born on Guam and the reason why is my father worked at the NASA tracking station during the Apollo missions. And I grew up with all of this memorabilia such as Neil Armstrong’s autograph to my father thanking him for all his help for Apollo 11.”
Proctor has not flown a plane in years so to reacquaint her with the checklists and calls over the radio, Issacman took her up in a jet for pilot re-training.
Besides becoming an astronaut, Proctor also said her dream was also to become a fighter pilot, so she got to do that too.
Issacman flew Proctor and the rest of the crew in one of his fighter jets so they could feel the G-forces — the additional gravity — that their bodies will experience on liftoff, re-entry and in case of an emergency abort, when the capsule automatically ejects itself from the rocket.
While in space, Proctor said she will spend time in the cupola — the domed glass window installed on the capsule — looking at the earth like she never has but always dreamed of and documenting her observations with art — painting with watercolors.