SpaceX’s All-Civilian Crew Only Get ‘The Right Kind’ Of Jitters Before Launch



CAP CANAVERAL, Fla., Sept. 14 (Reuters) – The four future citizen astronauts prepare to fly a SpaceX rocket around the world as the first fully civilian crew to launch into orbit on Tuesday said they were eager to take off the day before their flight, feeling only “the right kind” of nervousness.

“I was just worried that this moment would never come in my life. Let’s go, let’s do it,” said Sian Proctor, 51, a geoscience professor, artist and lifelong enthusiast, who was previously a finalist in 2009. of the NASA Astronaut Nominee Program. it was cut.

Proctor also revealed that she and her flight mates received a phone call from one of her personal heroes, former First Lady Michelle Obama, wishing them good luck, an honor she said “would stay with me. the rest of my life “.

The “Inspiration4” quartet is scheduled to take off Wednesday at 8 p.m. (0000 GMT) from Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex 39A in Cape Canaveral, Fla., For an orbital flight expected to last about three days before landing.

Proctor and his teammates – billionaire ecommerce executive and jet pilot Jared Isaacman, 38, medical assistant Hayley Arceneaux, 29, and aerospace data engineer Chris Sembroski, 42 – answered reporters’ questions during a pre-launch briefing in a SpaceX hangar just over 24 hours before launch time.

Behind them, visible in the distance through the open hangar doors, stood the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon capsule designed to transport them to a targeted orbital altitude of 360 miles (575 km) above Earth. – higher than the International Space Station.

The Inspiration4 team of Chris Sembroski, Sian Proctor, Jared Isaacman and Hayley Arceneaux pose in costume for a launch rehearsal in Cape Canaveral, Fla. On September 12, 2021. Photo taken on September 12, 2021. Inspiration4 / John Kraus / Handout via REUTERS

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That’s well beyond the inaugural astrotourism flights made this summer by SpaceX rivals Virgin Galactic (SPCE.N) and Blue Origin, who took their respective billionaire founders – Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos – for the ride. .

These two suborbital voyages, while high enough that their crews could experience a few moments of microgravity, ended in a matter of minutes.

The high orbit flight planned for Inspiration4 carries greater risks, including increased exposure to radiation in space. But crew members professed the utmost confidence in SpaceX, the private California rocket company founded by billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk.

Isaacman, founder and CEO of electronic financial services firm Shift4 Payments Inc (FOUR.N), is the initiator and benefactor of the mission, having paid Musk an undisclosed but presumably huge sum to steal the four members. crew in orbit.

Musk joined a pre-flight “check-in” call on Tuesday, “and assured us that all management is only focused on this mission,” Isaacman told reporters when asked. questions on the nerves before launch. “No nervousness, just excited to start.”

Arceneaux, a childhood bone cancer survivor who now works with young lymphoma and leukemia patients at the St. Jude Children’s Research Center in Memphis, Tennessee, which the Inspiration4 mission was designed in large part to promote, said that ‘she was “so excited”.

“All the nervousness is of the right kind,” she added. “I’m just waiting for tomorrow to get here.”

At least one retired NASA astronaut, Catherine “Cady” Coleman, 60, a veteran of two space shuttle missions, who spoke up to wish the Inspiration4 crew good luck, told them: “We want to welcome you to the family.”

Reporting by Julio-Cesar Chavez in Cape Canaveral, Florida; Writing and additional reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by Peter Cooney

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