A billionaire, a nurse… who are SpaceX’s passengers and why are they in space?

They must travel farther than the International Space Station (ISS), for a target orbit of 575 km. They will circumnavigate the globe approximately 15 times a day.

What are they going to do up there? We are actually far from the advertised “tourism” space. Four American “space tourists” embarked on an incredible zero-gravity journey in a SpaceX spacecraft, where they will spend three days in orbit around Earth with no professional astronaut aboard, a historic first.

The Falcon 9 rocket took off at the scheduled time, 20:02 local time (00:02 GMT Thursday) from the legendary Launch Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, with a roar and a fireball lighting up the night. A few minutes later, the first and then second stages of the rocket separated, leaving the Dragon capsule and its passengers alone in the cosmos.

“Few have been there before and many will follow. The door is opening now, it’s amazing,” billionaire Jared Isaacman, the mission’s commander, said from inside the capsule after arriving in space.

They must travel farther than the International Space Station (ISS), for a target orbit of 575 km. They will circumnavigate the globe approximately 15 times a day.

In their spaceship, which has already taken, on three separate missions, 10 astronauts to the International Space Station, they will have to do.

The Dragon capsule (8m high, 4m in diameter) has been modified here: if a huge glass dome was installed to give passengers a 360° view of the vacuum of space, they all have a specific task.

And to analyze how newbies react to the space environment, their sleep, their heart rate, their blood or even their cognitive abilities will be analyzed.

Tests will also be carried out before and after the flight. All four trained for just under six months, compared to years for astronauts.

Jared Isaacman, billionaire pilot

He is the mission commander. This 38-year-old American is the CEO of Shift4 Payments, which offers stores and restaurants a credit card transaction processing service. He raised him when he was 16, in the basement of the family home.

Passionate about piloting, he holds a round-the-world jet record and is qualified to fly military aircraft. In 2012, he founded a training company for US Air Force pilots, Draken International.

Married with two daughters, he has always been passionate about space exploration. In 2008, he witnessed the lift-off, aboard a Russian rocket in Kazakhstan, of one of the first private tourists to the International Space Station, Richard Garriott. It was after this experience that he contacted SpaceX. Its headquarters represents “leadership”.

Hayley Arceneaux, cancer survivor

Originally from Louisiana, the young woman is a pediatric cancer survivor. She was treated as a child at St Jude Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, for which Jared Isaacman organized a fundraiser. She works there today as a medical assistant.

At 29, she is the youngest American ever to be placed in orbit around the Earth and the first person with a prosthesis to go into space. She is the mission’s official doctor. Her thirst represents hope.

Sian Proctor, teacher and astronaut candidate

At 51, Sian Proctor has been an earth science teacher for 20 years. Born in Guam, her father worked at NASA during the Apollo missions.

She participated in an experiment in Hawaii simulating life on Mars and twice applied to NASA to become an astronaut. In 2009, she made it among the finalists (a few dozen more than 3,500 candidates at first).
She is only the fourth African-American woman to go into space.

She is the pilot of the mission, assisting the commander. She won her spot, which represents prosperity, by creating a space-related e-commerce site as part of an entrepreneur contest organized by Jared Isaacman’s company.

Former Air Force Chris Sembroski

At 42 years old, this former member of the US Air Force has notably served in Iraq. He currently works in the aeronautical industry, for Lockheed Martin, in the State of Washington (northwest United States). He was selected after making a donation as part of a fundraiser for St Jude Hospital. Your thirst represents generosity. Its role is, in particular, to help manage onboard cargo and communications with Earth.

RMC editorial team with AFP

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