Words by Eva Wallis, Staff Writer
An insight into the crew of the world’s first all-civilian space mission.
The ‘Inspiration4’ mission aboard spacecraft ‘Resilience’ has become the first ever crewed space flight without professional astronauts on board. Launching from the Kennedy Space Centre on the 15th of September 2021, the four civilians undertook a three-day mission orbiting the Earth, before splashing back down in the Atlantic Ocean on the 18th of September. The mission took place on one of SpaceX’s ‘Crew Dragon’ spacecraft, which already made history in 2012 for being the first privately owned spacecraft to reach the International Space Station.
The purpose of Inspiration4 was to raise awareness and funds for the St Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, and it achieved exactly that by raising more than $200 million which will go towards expanding St Jude’s childhood cancer research. The mission got its namesake from the 4 pillars of support used by St Jude’s; leadership, hope, generosity and prosperity. While orbiting the Earth, the crew took the opportunity to perform medical experiments on themselves in order to better understand how microgravity affects a human body.
Commander of the mission and the man behind the idea to raise money for St Jude’s was billionaire CEO of Shift4 Payments: Jared Isaacman. This is just his latest effort to raise money for charity having previously raised money for the Make-a-Wish foundation by doing a speed-around-the-world flight, which also happened to get him a world record. Isaacman also regularly flies with the Black Diamond Jet Team, with each flight dedicated to raising awareness of a charity.
The first crew mate announced to be joining Isaacman was medical officer Hayley Arceneaux, who was chosen by St Jude’s. When Arceneaux was a child she was treated for bone cancer at St Jude’s and later went on to become a physician associate at the same hospital. Arceneaux herself is making history as the youngest American to go to space and the first person with a prosthetic body part to go into space as during her treatment some of the bones in her leg were replaced with metal rods.
Chris Sembroski served as mission specialist during Inspiration4. He got his seat on resilience through a fundraiser for St Jude’s and, although he did enter the competition himself, it was actually an anonymous friend of his that won and donated the seat to him. His friend is said to have recalled Sembroski’s keen interest in space and his time as a counsellor at Huntsville Space Camp when deciding to offer the seat to him.
Last but not least was the pilot, Sian Proctor, who won her space on the craft via Shift4’s competition and was arguably the most experienced of the crew. Originally a geology and planetary science professor, she had already taken part in four analogue space missions, including a NASA funded four-month mars mission before finally making it to space for Inspiration4.
The success of this private space mission has been said to mark the beginning of “a new era for human spaceflight and exploration”.