Meet the First All-Civilian Crew About to Orbit Earth
A SpaceX Dragon capsule carrying four astronauts splashed down early Sunday off the coast of Florida, the first nighttime splashdown for a U.S. crew in more than a half-century. That same capsule will make history again in the fall, when it carries the first all-civilian space crew into orbit for the Inspiration 4 mission.
"This is like totally sacred ground," mission commander Jared Isaacman told CBS News' Mark Strassmann above the Kennedy Space Center's historic Launch Pad 39A. "Everyone who launched from the moon, launched from this facility."
The launchpad has supported flights from the Apollo program to the Space Shuttle, and will now help take four Americans — a billionaire, a childhood cancer survivor, a science instructor and an engineer — into orbit.
Inspiration4 crew include: Jared Isaacman, Hayley Arceneaux, Sian Proctor, and Chris Sembroski.
Each seat will represent a human virtue and Isaacman’s seat will represent "leadership."
Isaacman, a 38-year-old billionaire who dropped out of high school at age 16 to found a payments technology company, owns and flies fighter jets for a hobby.
The billionaire paid SpaceX an undisclosed price for all four seats. Three have gone to complete strangers.
"When I found out that Inspiration 4 was gonna be the first all-civilian mission to space, well then there's no chance that's going to be a bunch of fishing buddies going on a joy ride. That's something of significance, of responsibility. And we were going to make it really special," Isaacman said.
He donated two of the three remaining seats to St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, which specializes in pediatric cancers.
Physician's assistant Hayley Arceneaux is one of the recipients. At 29 years old, Arceneaux would become the youngest American ever to fly in space. Her seat in the capsule will represent "hope."
Sian Proctor, who teaches science at a community college in Phoenix, said she thought her space dream was over after being passed over as a finalist for NASA's astronaut program. Proctor got a ticket to come aboard Inspiration 4 by winning a contest for entrepreneurs — her seat represents "prosperity."
Chris Sembroski, a 41-year-old engineer from Seattle, won the fourth seat through an online raffle to raise money for St. Jude's. While Sembroski actually lost the raffle, his friend won and gave him the chance. That final seat will represent "generosity."
The flight will make history — but Isaacman hopes it also makes money, as a fundraiser for St. Jude's.
His goal is to raise $200 million for the hospital.
"We have a responsibility to take care of some of these problems here on Earth if we're gonna go and explore among the stars," he said.