A new era begins in space travel, a future where anyone – at least anyone with tens of millions of dollars – can buy a rocket ride to see Earth from a few hundred miles up.
Jared Isaacman, a 37-year-old billionaire, announced Monday that he is essentially chartering a rocket and spaceship from SpaceX, the company founded by Elon Musk, for a three- or four-day trip into space.
The start is planned for October. It is said to be the first mission into orbit where none of the people on board are professional astronauts from NASA or any other state space agency.
Mr. Isaacman’s announcement follows Last week’s report on a private mission, also on a SpaceX ship, to the International Space Station. Three customers paid $ 55 million each for an eight-day stay that would take place as early as next January.
“We want to work towards a Jetsons-like world,” Isaacman said in an interview. He is the founder and CEO of Shift4 Payments, a company that sells terminals and POS systems for credit card processing to restaurants and other companies.
There are four seats in the current SpaceX Crew Dragon capsules, and Mr. Isaacman is looking for fellow passengers who aren’t particularly wealthy.
He is giving two of the places to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, which treats children for free and develops cures for childhood cancers and other diseases.
One of these places will go to a health worker in St. Jude. “Actually, a former cancer survivor who was treated at St. Jude and came back to work there today,” Isaacman said.
He and the hospital officials did not name the St. Jude employee on Monday.
The other seat will be randomly given away to someoneaiming to raise at least $ 200 million for St. Jude. You don’t need to donate to participate in the space journey, but each dollar donated counts as 10 entries, up to 10,000 entries.
Only US citizens and legal permanent residents 18 years of age or older can enter the drawing. Someone selected for the trip must be under 6 feet, 6 inches tall, weigh less than 250 pounds, and pass psychological and physical tests.
“If you can do a roller coaster ride, like an intense roller coaster ride, you should be good at flying Dragon,” Musk said during a press conference Monday.
Mr Isaacman declined to disclose how much he is paying for his private mission in space but said: “It is very safe to say that what we are asking to raise in support of this cause is well above the EU’s cost lie will be mission. “
He said he made a pledge to personally donate $ 100 million. “If you want to achieve all of these great things in space, all of these advances, there are some good things you need to do here on earth to make sure you beat childhood cancer along the way,” he said.
Fourth place in the Crew Dragon goes to an entrepreneur in a “Shark Tank” -like competition organized by Shift4. Details of the entrepreneur competition are published on the Shift4 website.
The winners of the St. Jude competition and the Shift4 competition will be selected in about a month. The crew members are then equipped for spacesuits and begin training.
“Let’s have fun and inspire the public and get people excited about the future,” said Musk.
This will not be the first time Mr. Isaacman has gone far and fast. He flies fighter jets for fun and founded Draken International in 2012, which owns fighter jets and trains pilots in the U.S. military. He regularly told the people at SpaceX that he was interested in going into space one day.
“I’ve been a SpaceX fan for a long time,” said Isaacman. “I’ve been a space enthusiast since I was in kindergarten.”
SpaceX developed the Crew Dragon for NASA to bring astronauts to and from the International Space Station. The first crewed mission with two NASA astronauts, Robert L. Behnken and Douglas G. Hurley, Launched last May. The second carried four astronauts there in Novemberand a third crew is to make the trip in the spring.
Mr Musk said the current plan is for Mr Isaacman to go into Resilience, the capsule that was launched in November and is currently docked with the space station.
After Mr. Behnken and Mr. Hurley’s first successful mission, Mr. Isaacman again asked his SpaceX contacts to keep an eye on him. This time the answer was, “I think we’re ready for this interview,” he said, “and it went very, very quickly from then on.”
Mr. Isaacman intends to be more than a passenger. He will learn how to operate the spaceship and serve as its commander.
“It’s just kind of in my DNA,” he said.
The Crew Dragon will launch on a Falcon 9 rocket from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It will orbit the earth for several days before splashing off the Florida coast.
His journey won’t be the only one putting private astronauts into orbit in the coming months. A mission from Axiom Space from Houston will bring three men to the International Space Station. Axiom is also building a commercial module to expand the space station and ultimately aims to operate its own commercial revolving outpost.
Private individuals have traveled to the space station, but those trips were organized between 2000 and 2009 by a space tourism company, Space Adventures, and operated by the Russian space agency, which provided individual seats in their Soyuz capsules alongside professional astronauts. At the time, NASA officials didn’t like visits from wealthy tourists to the space station, but the agency started Promote further commercial endeavors during the Trump administration.
In 2019, NASA announced new guidelines to help boost business on the space station, including charging $ 35,000 per night to visitors to help cover the cost of amenities like water, air, internet connection, and toilet.
Axiom is the first to use NASA accommodations. The first customers are Larry Connor, managing partner of the Connor Group, a company in Dayton, Ohio that owns and operates luxury apartments. Mark Pathy, executive director of Mavrik Corporation, a Canadian investment company; and Eytan Stibbe, an investor and former Israeli Air Force pilot. The three did not know each other before.
“I think we shared the same vision, and that vision is about getting it right, doing worthwhile research and experimentation, and meeting the highest standards set by NASA and the astronauts,” Connor said in one Interview. “So I’m pretty confident that the team will work well together.”
Mr. Connor, who will be 71 years old when it launches next year, is believed to be the second oldest person to ever fly into space after John Glenn, who flew on the space shuttle at the age of 77. He wanted to do research for the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota and the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio.
The commander of the space station trip will be an Axiom vice president, Michael López-Alegría, a former NASA astronaut. Another former NASA astronaut Peggy A. Whitsonis the backup commander.
Mr López-Alegría said Axiom originally planned to sell all four seats. “I think we started to understand pretty quickly that the real requirement was to have someone with experience,” he said. “And I think that makes NASA a lot happier too. So I was the guy in space who’s been in space before. “
He expected that he would spend most of the time on the space station to help Mr. Connor, Mr. Pathy and Mr. Stibbe.
“It will be more of a work manager than a cruise director in a way,” said López-Alegría.
In an interview, Mr. Connor admitted that many people question the worth of rich people who pay millions for such trips. “I understand people have questions,” he said. “People criticize, ‘Hey, with all the problems going on right now, why on earth are these people spending all this money going into space?'”
However, he replied that his company’s charity, Kids & Community Partners, plans to spend $ 400 million on programs to help children and fund medical research over the next 10 years. Overall, he said he will eventually donate half of his net worth to charity. And around 30 percent of its assets flow into what the company calls a “key partner”.
“Only 20 percent will stay in my family,” said Connor. “So I was just hoping that when people criticize or slander me for it, at least they have the context of what I believe in.”
Mr Musk also said expensive trips like this are necessary to cut costs for future space travelers. “This is an important milestone in giving everyone access to space,” he said.
Space Adventures announced last year that it had also reached an agreement with SpaceX to launch a Crew Dragon to take tourists on a journey into Earth orbit, but no details have been given as to when this mission might start. It has also resumed sales of tourist trips to the space station using Russian Soyuz rockets. Two customers are scheduled to take off a flight later this year.
Yusaku Maezawa, a Japanese fashion entrepreneur, has also signed up for a SpaceX tourist trip, but that would be it a trip around the moon In a few years on a giant rocket called Starship, which is still under development.
Those who cannot afford orbital travel will soon have cheaper options in the hundreds of thousands of dollars for short ascents and descents to the edge of space and back, where they can experience a few minutes of weightlessness.
Virgin Galactic, which was founded by Richard Bransonhas made several manned flights on his spacecraft; The next test is planned for the middle of the month. Blue Origin, by Jeffrey P. Bezos of Amazon, launched its human-free suborbital New Shepard capsule and could conduct its first passenger test flights this year.