American billionaire Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) is planning the first-ever orbital flight crewed entirely by civilians.
The mission will be funded and led by a technology entrepreneur, Jared Isaacman, who will be joined by three other people on the trip to space aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule. Mr. Issacman is the founder and chief executive officer of Shift4 Payments, a US-based payment processor.
Mr. Isaacman has purchased three additional seats aboard the mission. The seats will be donated to a St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital “ambassador,” and a member of the public who enters for a chance to join the trip.
St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in the US is a pediatric treatment and research facility focused on children’s diseases like cancers. The ambassador from the hospital has already been selected, Mr. Isaacman said. He did not disclose any details of their identity beyond saying it would be a woman and a front-line healthcare worker who’s “committed to helping kids beat cancer.”
The fourth seat is reserved for a winner of a contest, limited to customers of Mr. Isaacman’s eCommerce platform, Shift4Shop. Eligible competitors will have to launch an online store on the platform and tweet a video about their “entrepreneurial story,” which will then be reviewed by “a panel of celebrity judges, ” according to the company.
The mission bolsters Mr. Musk’s efforts to make human spaceflight more common. SpaceX took a big leap last year with two astronaut missions to the International Space Station (ISS) for NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration), and a third that’s planned for April. The company has also stepped up efforts to find commercial passengers, and already has plans to fly Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa on a trip around the moon in 2023 aboard its Starship spacecraft.
“This is an important milestone toward enabling access to space for everyone,” Mr. Musk said. SpaceX plans to use the Dragon dubbed Resilience for the private flight.
SpaceX will train Mr. Isaacman, who has previous experience piloting various aircraft, and his fellow crew members for the mission at SpaceX facilities. That training will involve some of the regimen that professional astronauts undertake, including emergency preparedness, microgravity training and space suit training, according to the press release.