SpaceX is set to plan the launch of the first all-civilian mission to orbit this year, led by a US billionaire who is paying for the entire flight
Jared Isaacman, the US billionaire who has made his fortune in technology and fighter jets, plans to take three people with him on his trip to circle the planet for several days in a Dragon capsule.
The 37-year-old, who will be the commander of the spacecraft, aims to use the private trip into orbit to raise $200m (£146m) for St Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Tennessee, with half coming from his own pockets.
Mr Isaacman, a self-described “space geek” since he was a young child, has not revealed just how much money he is paying SpaceX, but has said that the anticipated donation to St Jude Hospital “vastly exceeds the cost of the mission”.
This comes after a 4.8% rally in the share price of the electric carmaker Tesla Thursday boosted Elon Musk past the Amazon.com Inc. founder Jeff Bezos on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, which is a ranking of the 500 wealthiest people in the world.
The four crew members will be undergoing astronaut training on the Falcon 9 launch vehicle and the Dragon capsule before then blasting off from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center sometime in the fourth quarter of 2021 at the earliest, in what will be a major milestone for the private spaceflight industry.
At the end of the civilian mission, the Dragon capsule will re-enter Earth’s atmosphere for a soft water landing off of the coast of Florida.
SpaceX has said before the journey that they “will go through emergency preparedness training, spacesuit and spacecraft ingress and egress exercises, as well as partial and full mission simulations”.
The billionaire, who is described as an accomplished jet pilot, said: “I truly want us to live in a world 50 or 100 years from now where people are jumping in their rockets like the Jetsons and there are families bouncing around on the moon with their kid in a spacesuit.”
“I also think if we are going to live in that world, we better conquer childhood cancer along the way.”
This comes after lockdown restrictions in the Isle of Man have been entirely lifted thanks to the “supportive, patriotic” public who are being praised for the way that they have followed the lockdown measures to tackle COVID-19.
SpaceX founder Elon Musk told NBC News: “When you’ve got a brand new mode of transportation, you have to have pioneers.”
“Things are expensive at first, and as you’re able to increase the launch rate, increase the production rate, refine the technology, it becomes less expensive and accessible to more people.”
Mr Musk said SpaceX’s top priority will be the crew’s safety.
“Any mission where there’s a crew onboard makes me nervous,” he said.
“The risk is not zero.”