Four “amateur astronauts” are about to launch into orbit in another landmark mission for space tourism.
It’s the latest flight to help open up access to space for paying customers, following on from launches by Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos.
The trip has been paid for by US billionaire businessman Jared Isaacman, who will travel with three crewmates.
A healthcare worker, a science educator and a data analyst will circle the Earth with Mr Isaacman for three days.
They hope to inspire others with their adventure and to raise money for children’s cancer medicine. Accordingly, the mission has been named Inspiration4 .
The crew’s Dragon vehicle, manufactured by Elon Musk’s company SpaceX, will ride atop a Falcon-9 rocket. It is due to launch from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center at 20:02 EDT on Wednesday (01:02 BST, Thursday), or very shortly after.
The spacecraft will reach an altitude of 575km (360 miles), which is about 150km higher than the International Space Station (ISS). The quartet will then spend their time doing experiments and looking at Earth through a large domed window which offers panoramic views.
The glass dome has been fitted in place of the mechanism Dragon normally uses to dock with the ISS, which isn’t needed on this flight.
The splashdown at the end of the flight will be targeted at the Atlantic Ocean.
The mission follows hot on the heels of Sir Richard Branson’s flight aboard his \virgin Galactic rocket plane on 11 July, and fellow billionaire Jeff Bezos’ trip to space nine days later in the New Shepard vehicle.
The quartet flying on Inspiration4 believes that human spaceflight is on the cusp of major change; it is being opened up beyond just those who in the past were deemed to have the “right stuff”.
The commander, Jared Isaacman, 38, is the founder and chief executive of Shift4 Payments, a company he started as a teenager to process credit card transactions. He’s also an aviation enthusiast with thousands of hours in multiple aircraft. While the mission has been made possible by Mr Isaacman’s immense wealth, the attitude is: space should be within reach of everyone.
“It’ll be the first time that a global superpower hasn’t sent people up into orbital space,” Mr Isaacman said.
“And I think that should send a message of all the things to come. We know someday in the future, 50 to 100 years from now, there’s going to be a lunar base, you’re probably going to have some sort of Martian colony. And it has to start somewhere.
“When this mission is complete, people are going to look at it and say, ‘It was the first time everyday people could go to space’.”