All it takes is luck and a dream and a 38 year old billionaire.
Jared Isaacman, an entrepreneur and philanthropist, announced Tuesday the names of the last two passengers who will accompany him on a three-day rocket tour around the world.
By purchasing the ride from SpaceX – the company founded by another billionaire, Elon Musk – Mr. Isaacman and his passengers will be the first to orbit the planet without the presence of a professional astronaut from NASA or another space agency.
The lucky recipients? Sian Proctor, 51, a professor at Community College in Tempe, Ariz., And Christopher Sembroski, 41, from Everett, Washington, who works for Lockheed Martin in data engineering. Both are lifelong space enthusiasts.
“The stars have really aligned for us in relation to this group,” said Isaacman, who announced the purchase of the trip on February 1.
The capsule and its inhabitants will orbit the earth at an altitude of 335 miles, about 80 miles higher than the orbit of the International Space Station. The launch date originally scheduled for October could be September 15, Isaacman said.
In planning the mission, Mr. Isaacman had several goals.
He said he wanted to give non-billionaires the opportunity to ride. And he wanted to raise money for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, which treats children for free for cancer and other illnesses, including a raffle for one of the Crew Dragon seats. Mr. Isaacman also said he hoped this space crew would be more diverse than the one who went into space in the past, mostly white men.
He seems to have made it.
Last month, Isaacman and St. Jude announced that a seat would go to Hayley Arceneaux, a former St. Jude patient who now works there as a medical assistant. Ms. Arceneaux, 29, will be the youngest American to ever go into space and the first person with a prosthetic limb. (During her treatment for bone cancer, some of the bones in her left leg were replaced with metal bars.)
Recognition…St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, via Reuters
Dr. Proctor, an African American with a PhD in science education, won a competition sponsored by Isaacman’s Shift4 Payments company. Participants used the company’s software to design an online store and then tweeted videos describing their entrepreneurial and space dreams. (With the software, Dr. Proctor started selling her space-related artwork, and in her video she reads a poem she wrote.)
Dr. Proctor had almost become an old-fashioned astronaut. She said that in 2009 she was among 47 finalists NASA selected from 3,500 entries. The space agency selected nine new astronauts this year. Dr. Proctor wasn’t one of them.
She applied twice more and wasn’t even among the finalists. When NASA announced another round of applications last year, Dr. Proctor.
“I said ‘no’ because I feel like this door has closed,” she said. “But I really had the hope that some commercial space would be available to me in my life. In a million years I never would have thought that it would just come this way and that quickly. “
She practiced. In 2013, Dr. Proctor one of six people who lived for four months in a small building on the side of a Hawaiian volcano. This was part of a NASA-funded experience to study the isolation and stress of a long trip to Mars.
Mr Sembroski said he heard about Mr Isaacman’s mission called Inspiration4 in a commercial during this year’s Super Bowl.
“That was just kind of fascinating,” he said. “And it’s like, ‘All right, I’ll donate St. Jude and throw my name in the hat to see what happens.'”
Mr Sembroski said he thought he donated $ 50 but did not win the sweepstakes, which helped raise $ 13 million for St. Jude. However, a friend won – an old college friend from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Florida. The friend, who remains anonymous, decided not to go into space, but gave him the price because he knew of Mr. Sembroski’s enthusiasm.
Mr. Sembroski learned through a video call with Mr. Isaacman and his friend that he had won the Crew Dragon seat.
“I just said, ‘Wow. “Really?” Wow. That’s amazing, ”said Mr Sembroski.
Mr. Sembroski was “very reluctant at first,” said Mr. Isaacman. “He was almost in shock.”
After the call ended, Mr. Sembroski went upstairs. “I tell my wife, ‘So yeah, I just cut the call and I’m going to drive a rocket. And she looked at me, she said, “What?”
He added, “My older daughter said, ‘Really, Dad? That is really cool.'”
While at college, Mr. Sembroski had worked as a consultant at Space Camp, an educational program in Huntsville, Alabama that offers children and families a taste of life as an astronaut. He also volunteered for ProSpace, a non-profit advocacy group that worked to open up space to more people.
Mr Sembroski described himself as “the guy behind the scenes who really helps other people achieve their goals and be the center of attention” and is now having a hard time being in the spotlight.
“Everyone’s doing it for me this time,” he said. “And that is a completely different and unique experience.”
A few days after the news, Dr. Proctor and Mr. Sembroski took Mr. Isaacman to Los Angeles to visit SpaceX headquarters and undergo a health screening at the University of California at Los Angeles.
On Tuesday, following the official announcement at the Kennedy Space Center, the four crew members will travel to Philadelphia to spin around a giant centrifuge to simulate the powerful forces they will experience upon launch and re-entry into the atmosphere.
Your training at SpaceX in California will be similar to that of NASA astronauts driving SpaceX rockets. In late April, Isaacman also plans to camp for three days on Mount Rainier, Washington.
“This is about mental hardship,” said Isaacman. “Feeling uncomfortable, feeling uncomfortable – and how well you work when you are uncomfortable.”
He said he hopes space travel will become more commonplace in the future and “plan a trip to Europe or something”.