Elon Musk's SpaceX will send its first "all-civilian" crew to space at the end of 2021 — in a mission centered on charity under the command of entrepreneur Jared Isaacman, according to a recent press release from the company.
SpaceX will choose three people to hitch a ride with Isaacman and orbit SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsule, according to the release.
This mission enables access for everyday people who dream of going to space— SpaceX (@SpaceX) February 1, 2021
Elon Musk's SpaceX planning first 'all-civilian' mission to space
"This mission enables access for everyday people who dream of going to space," read a Monday tweet from SpaceX.
A trained pilot and Chief Executive of Shift4 Payments, Isaacman said he gave $100 million to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital — and aims to raise an additional $200 by inviting prospective civilian astronauts to donate at least $10 to St. Jude — the entry fee for having a shot at going to space.
Three people donating at least $10 to St. Jude will be chosen "to represent the mission pillars of leadership, hope, generosity and prosperity," read another, Businesswire press release.
The lucky winners of seats to space "will be announced in the weeks ahead," said SpaceX in the earlier statement.
All-civilian SpaceX crew will spend five days 'stress testing' in space
"This is an important milestone towards enabling access to space for everyone," said Elon Musk to reporters during a conference call, The Verge reports. During the call, he also added that this is part of a broader aim of SpaceX's — to "bring the cost down over time and make space accessible to all."
The charity mission — called Inspiration4 — will lift three people plus the pilot atop SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket from the company's 39A launch site in NASA's Kennedy Space Center, Florida. The all-civilian crew will receive special training while in space, including "a specific focus on orbital mechanics, operating in microgravity, zero gravity, and other forms of stress testing."
All four members of the crew will spend at most five days inside the Crew Dragon capsule while it orbits the Earth once per 90 minutes "along a customized flight path," said SpaceX in conjunction with the contest's official rules.
SpaceX has opened a space lottery for 'everyday people'
SpaceX has already sent two crewed missions into space, but in the past, they were always accompanied by NASA astronauts — once with an astronaut from Japan's space agency — aboard government-funded trips to the International Space Station (ISS).
This mission comes on the heels of another recent private mission that SpaceX is lifting into orbit. Last week, Ax-1 was announced for the end of 2021 — to send a crew of four private astronauts paying $55 million each on an eight-day sojourn to the ISS.
SpaceX also aims to send Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa around the moon on SpaceX's new Starship rocket, once it's ready to go.
It seems the future of space travel means ordinary civilians — both of vast financial means and not — can now go to space because of Elon Musk's SpaceX. "If we're going to continue making advances up there in space, then we have an obligation to do the same down here on Earth," said Isaacman. As of yet, there's no way of knowing how many other potential winners each contestant faces. But with entry into the contest requiring a $10-donation minimum, it might remind some "everyday people" of a Shirley Jackson short story called "The Lottery."