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TFK Explains: Inspiration4

READY TO FLY The crew of Inspiration4 visits Space Camp, in Huntsville, Alabama, in July 2021. JOHN KRAUS— INSPIRATION4

This month, four civilian astronauts are scheduled to launch into orbit. They will travel aboard the Crew Dragon spacecraft. Their mission is called Inspiration4. It’s a historic moment in space travel. Here’s what you need to know about it.

Where is the crew going?

The crew members will launch from Kennedy Space Center. It’s in Florida. The Dragon won’t dock at the International Space Station (ISS). It will shoot 80 miles above the ISS. It will circle the Earth at an altitude of 360 miles. When the Dragon returns to Earth, it will splash down off the Florida coast. How long will Inspiration4 be in space?

The mission is scheduled to launch on September 15. It will last for about three days.

Who’s leading the mission?

Jared Isaacman will be the commander. Isaacman started an online payment company in 1999. Today, it’s worth about $7 billion. Isaacman is also a pilot.

How is SpaceX involved in the mission?

SpaceX is a space exploration company. It was founded by billionaire Elon Musk. SpaceX built the Dragon. In 2020, the company flew NASA astronauts to the ISS. It was the first private company to do so.

Isaacman paid SpaceX to send the whole crew into space. SpaceX trained the civilian astronauts. It will monitor the mission from Earth.

How is St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital involved?

The Inspiration4 mission hopes to raise $200 million for St. Jude. It also hopes to raise awareness about childhood cancer.

What will the Inspiration4 crew do in space?

Crew members will perform medical experiments in zero-gravity conditions. They will also call loved ones at home and patients at St. Jude.

Have nonprofessional astronauts been sent to space before?

Yes. Bill Nelson flew on the space shuttle Columbia in 1986. He was a United States congressman. He is now NASA’s administrator. In 2001, Dennis Tito traveled to the ISS. Tito was an American businessman. He paid for the trip. That made him the world’s first space tourist. There have been others, too. But Inspiration4 is the first orbital mission made up entirely of civilians.

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