4 space tourists in orbit, they were trained in 6 months

Two men, two women, four American space tourists have started an incredible journey in zero gravity in a SpaceX spacecraft.

The Falcon 9 rocket took off on schedule from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. A few minutes later, the first and second stages of the rocket separated, leaving the Dragon capsule and its passengers alone in the cosmos.

The four amateur astronauts must spend three days in orbit around the Earth without any professional on board, a historic first. The orbit is unusually high, 160 kilometers longer than the International Space Station.

Billionaire Jared Isaacman, boss of a financial services company and seasoned pilot, is the commander of this mission called Inspiration4. Their return to land is scheduled off Florida.

The price the billionaire paid SpaceX has not been disclosed, but runs into tens of millions of dollars. He offered three more seats to strangers through a competition:

Hayley Arceneaux, a pediatric cancer survivor, is a 29-year-old medical assistant. She is the youngest American to ever go to space, and the first person with a prosthesis (of the femur). Chris Sembroski, 42, is a former US Air Force employee who now works in the aviation industry. And finally, Sian Proctor, a 51-year-old professor, almost became an astronaut for NASA in 2009. She is only the fourth African American woman to go to space.

To help understand the effect of the spatial environment on these novices, their biological data (heart rate, sleep …) as well as their cognitive capacities will be analyzed. They will also undergo tests comparing their performance before and after the trip.

Their training lasted about six months. The flight is expected to remain fully automated, but the crew has been trained by SpaceX to be able to take control in an emergency.

To prepare, they also made a trek in the snow up to more than 3000 meters of altitude, and supported the force g of a centrifuge (long arm in rapid rotation) and of jet flights.

The mission also serves as a lever for a huge fundraiser for St Jude’s pediatric hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, where Hayley Arceneaux works after being treated there as a child.

In the vessel are various objects (ukulele …) which will then be auctioned.


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