Herald staff and Associated Press
If all goes according to plan, Wednesday will mark one small step for man, one giant leap for Christopher Sembroski of Everett.
The 42-year-old data engineer is to be launched into space with three other civilians aboard a SpaceX Dragon spacecraft atop a Falcon 9 rocket. There will be no professional astronauts aboard. Dragon spacecraft have flown humans only twice before.
Inspiration4 is billed as the the world’s first all-civilian mission to orbit. They will blast off from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center — at NASA’s legendary launch complex 39A — and spend about three days conducting experiments while orbiting the earth at an altitude of 357 miles, which is 100 miles higher than the International Space Station and just above the current position of the Hubble Space Telescope.
Sembroski was selected for the mission after an online sweepstakes to raise money for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis. He didn’t actually win, but a friend from his college days did and gave him the slot. He’ll be joined by geoscientist Sian Proctor, 51, of Phoenix; childhood cancer survivor and physician’s assistant Hayley Arceneaux, 29, of Memphis, Tennessee; and billionaire businessman Jared Isaacman, 38, of Washington, New Jersey, who’s bankrolling the mission and serving as commander. While there are no professional astronauts flying with them, Isaacman is an experienced private pilot who can fly fighter jets.
The rocket was expected to lift off during a five-hour launch window that opens at 5:02 p.m. Pacific time Wednesday. The flight could be delayed by weather or a technical problem, though as of this writing there were no known issues. If there is a delay, another five-hour launch window occurs Thursday at 5:05 p.m. PDT.
How to watch
SpaceX produces its own TV coverage of missions like Inspiration4 and streams it live on YouTube, where it also posts replays. Cable news channels will likely closely follow the launch and landing.
Isaacman and SpaceX settled on three days as the sweet spot for orbiting the Earth. It gives him and his fellow passengers plenty of time to take in the views through a custom bubble-shaped window, take blood samples and conduct other medical research, and drum up interest for auction items to benefit the hospital.
While roomy for a capsule, the Dragon offers virtually no privacy; only a curtain shields the toilet. Unlike the space station and NASA’s old shuttles, there is no galley or sleeping compartments, or even separate work areas. As for food, they’ll chow down on cold pizza following liftoff. They’re also packing ready-to-eat, astronaut-style fare.
Time magazine put the crew on the cover of the magazine last month and has produced a series for Netflix, “Countdown: Inspiration4 Mission to Space,” which is ongoing and will conclude after the mission. In the series, Sembroski’s wife, Erin Duncan-Sembroski, a schoolteacher, said she won’t celebrate until splashdown.
Where to learn more