While raising $250 million for charity, Inspiration4 flew the first Black woman astronaut pilot and the first astronaut using a prosthetic.
One year ago today, a charitable space mission launched, ushering in a new era for the hospital it funded.
Four non-spacefaring individuals from Inspiration4 were launched into orbit using a SpaceX Dragon spaceship. Due to its pioneering nature—it was the first-ever all-private crewed flight to Earth orbit—diverse crew, $250 million raised over six months for a children’s hospital, and three-day mission, which gained attention from all around the world.
However, the billionaire commander Jared Isaacman is hard at work getting ready for a fresh slate of missions to help the same organisation: St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis. That liftoff on September 15, 2021, was just the beginning.
The first of the three upcoming spaceflights using SpaceX craft as part of Isaacman’s Polaris Program is slated to launch no early than December.
The other three astronauts on board Inspiration4 also began a new journey: analogue astronaut Sian Proctor, the first Black woman to fly in space, juvenile cancer patient Hayley Arceneaux, the first astronaut to use an artificial prosthesis, and U.S. Air Force veteran Christopher Sembroski.
Proctor and Arceneaux have both written books about their experiences, while Sembroski joined Jeff Bezos’ aerospace company Blue Origin as an avionics engineer to pursue a career in space. (He was present when Inspiration4 took off.)
The newly renamed Inspiration4 Advanced Research Center at St. Jude’s is researching the immune system, cell biology, and molecular biology in an effort to “understand how tumours grow and behave while testing new treatments,” the hospital wrote in a post to commemorate September as Childhood Cancer Awareness Month(opens in new tab). Isaacman, meanwhile, recently visited the facility.
More private individuals have entered space in the year since Inspiration4, whether it be on brief suborbital trips on Blue Origin’s New Shepard craft or on the first all-commercial mission by Axiom Space, which reached the International Space Station earlier this year. (Inspiration4 flew alone for three days around Earth; it didn’t connect with the space station.)
A tiny percentage of people (including three of the four astronauts on Inspiration4) have more diversified economic backgrounds, despite the fact that the majority of private astronauts today are well-off and self-funded. The space community has been looking for ways to expand access to spaceflight so that a wide range of people can take part.