WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
- The world’s first all-civilian crew to orbit Earth, Inspiration4, has begun their three-day mission inside a SpaceX Dragon capsule on Wednesday.
- The team includes 29-year-old cancer survivor Hayley Arceneaux, 38-year-old billionaire Jared Isaacman, 41-year-old data engineer Christopher Sembroski, and 51-year-old geoscientist Dr. Sian Proctor.
- The historic mission, paid for by Isaacman, will raise money for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
SpaceX Inspiration4 has become the world’s first all-civilian crew to orbit Earth. The team began their three-day mission inside a SpaceX Dragon capsule when they launched from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 8:02 p.m. EDT Wednesday.
The team underwent all kinds of training to take the automated Crew Dragon Resilience higher into space than anyone’s gone in nearly 15 years.
Civilians had previously seen an incredible view of space thanks to Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, but these missions only lasted for a few minutes and did not go into orbit.
Meet the crew: 29-year-old Hayley Arceneaux, 38-year-old Jared Isaacman, 41-year-old Christopher Sembroski, and 51-year-old Dr. Sian Proctor.
Arceneaux certainly made history. She has become the youngest American, the first pediatric cancer survivor, and the first person with a prosthesis to ever orbit Earth.
She was treated at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital as a child and is now a physician assistant there.
Arceneaux told PEOPLE that she would never have fulfilled the physical requirements of such a mission because of the “big rod” in her leg, so she was grateful for being included.
Proctor, a geoscientist and artist, was a finalist in the NASA astronaut selection process in 2009. She also made history as the first Black woman to serve as a pilot in space, and the fourth Black woman to travel to space.
Having the motto “space2inspire,” Proctor hopes to “inspire the next generation of women of color and girls of color — and really get them to think about reaching for the stars.”
Isaacman is the billionaire CEO of Shift4 Payments, and is paying SpaceX for the mission. He is also an accomplished pilot serving as commander.
He has donated $100 million of his own money to St. Jude and is dedicating the flight to raise the donation to a total of $200 million for the hospital.
Isaacman believes in a future where space travel — and even residence — is a norm. He added, “If we can accomplish all of that, we sure as heck better tackle childhood cancer along the way.”
Sembroski, a data engineer and married father of two, donated to St. Jude and won the random drawing for a seat onboard. He said that he actually snagged the spot when a friend who’d won the drawing could not go.
You can watch the moments preceding the launch in the video below: