SpaceX recently launched a 200-foot-tall rocket to go around the Earth for three days. On top of the rocket was a capsule with four people who had no formal spaceflight training. On Saturday, they successfully returned to Earth.
The passengers landed off the coast of Florida and were spotted smiling and waving after emerging from the capsule. The people who were inside the capsule are 38-year-old billionaire Jared Isaacman, who was also the person who financed the trip; 29-year-old Hayley Arceneux, a childhood cancer survivor and now a physician assistant at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital; 51-year-old Sian Proctor, a geologist and professor; and 42-year-old Chris Sembroski, who won his seat through an online raffle and is a lifelong space fan.
The tourism mission was called “Inspiration4,” and this was the first time people who were not astronauts went to space. The Inspiration4 flight was all the more remarkable because it was the first time SpaceX used one of its Crew Dragon spacecraft for a private mission. Such spacecraft was developed to carry professional astronauts to and from the International Space Station on behalf of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), CNN reported.
It is believed that the Inspiration4 flight cost less than $200 million. Many criticized the 72-hour trip around the Earth, saying that there is a possibility that those with the means will map the future of space travel. Timiebi Aganaba, who researches space ethics and law and teaches at Arizona State University, said the criticism against Inspiration4 is a symptom of the innate complexity of imagining humanity’s future in space.
Aganaba said, “It’s hard for me because I am also part of the space enthusiast community, but I think I’m a little bit more of a realist. Inspiration4 feels like a one-off event. It was still initiated by a conversation between two billionaires and it was still a great marketing opportunity.”
Aganaba further said that although it’s inspiring to see four people, who are all strangers and had little to no experience in spaceflight, were brave enough to undergo the mission, she grappled with the question of how much focus and resources should be placed in space travel now that people all over the world are dying and starving.
SpaceX is now working on its Starship vehicle. It is an enormous rocket and spacecraft system that promises to be the most powerful spacecraft ever launched. Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa booked a trip on this rocket as it will bring him around the moon. NASA will be able to use the Starship vehicle for its lunar landing plans.
Aside from SpaceX, other companies launched suborbital trips. These companies are Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin.