There was a time when only professional astronauts went to space. Then there were some mega-millionaires able to fork out the 20 or 30 million dollars that it cost a seat on board a Russian capsule. Now another billionaire, Jared Isaacman, has just taken another step: He doesn’t just buy a seat; charter a Space X capsule to carry three friends. And he will be the pilot.
The first entirely civilian space mission, called Inspiration 4, is scheduled to take off from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral (Florida) from 8:00 p.m. on September 15 (2:00 a.m. on Thursday in Madrid), 24 hours later than originally planned. “This will give us extra time for final preparations, vehicle and data review,” Inspiration4 and Space X stressed in a statement.
The crew is made up of the entrepreneur, an engineer, a medical assistant and a science educator. They will use the capsule Dragon Resilience of SpaceX, which will be launched into orbit by a rocket Falcon 9 from the same company. American billionaire Jared IsaacmanTherefore, he will command the mission, which will last three days and will end with the fall of the capsule into the Atlantic Ocean with the help of a parachute after having reached almost 575 kilometers above the Earth. The trip is far superior in distance and time to the suborbital trips made this year by millionaires Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson aboard the ships of their respective private space companies.
Jared Isaacman, 38-year-old founder and CEO of Shift4 Payments, has funded all three passages for Hayley Arceneaux, 29, an osteosarcoma survivor diagnosed at St. Judeen Children’s Research Hospital when she was ten years old and now an assistant physician. from the same hospital (you will be the youngest person to fly into orbital space); university professor Sian Proctor and aerospace engineer and Air Force veteran Chris Sembroski. The last two won their places in two raffles: one between donors to the hospital and another, between clients of Isaacman’s companies. All are declared fans of both atmospheric and space flight. The four constitute the first crew consisting only of civilian personnel.
Isaacman starred in one of those rare success stories that make up the legend of the American dream. At 15 he started creating web pages for small local businesses
The billionaire starred in one of those rare success stories that make up the legend of the American dream. At the age of 15, he started creating websites for small local businesses. Following the tradition of the company installed in the garage, he did it from the basement of the family home. The small business, no more than mere entertainment, prospered until one of his clients turned out to be a manufacturer of credit card reading equipment. The teenager’s job was so satisfying that, shortly after, the company offered him a steady job as a computer consultant.
Isaacman didn’t think twice. He took the job and dropped out of high school even before graduating. As an alternative, and at the insistence of his parents, he accepted to pass the tests to obtain the GED, an alternative certificate not especially prestigious, traditionally it has been considered as a “repechage” for students with lower performance.
Immersed in the world of electronic means of payment, he soon realized the immense paperwork involved in their use. In particular for the hotel and restaurant business. At that time (the 1990s), introducing credit card use in a small restaurant involved weeks of work and countless bureaucratic pitfalls, not to mention tracking every receipt.
It was a business niche that Isaacman knew how to take advantage of. Using the experience gained from his first job (and a $ 10,000 loan from his father), he developed a new payment processing software. It was not easy to convince the first customers to adopt something developed under precarious conditions by a couple of friends, but once the initial obstacles were overcome, the product was quickly accepted by banks, hotels and restaurants alike. At age 19, he had repaid the loan and his company was beginning to expand through various states. Today his clients include everything from the Hilton chain to pizza franchises or fried chicken. His fortune is estimated at more than 2,000 million dollars.
In a short time, Isaacman found himself the owner of a hundred fighters, more than the troops of many countries, and a kind of private Top Gun academy located in a base near Las Vegas.
Business success came at a price. For years, Isaacman was famous for his marathon 16-hour workdays. Until just turned 25, he decided to combine the business with a hobby: aviation. In a couple of years, he went from flying low-weight, low-capacity aircraft to private jets. And then, upon learning of that possibility, fighter aircraft. So he also came up with a new business: offering training services to military pilots. The latest models are not always needed; It would be enough to have a few old-fashioned fighters that could be bought at knockdown prices. Where? In any country that has just renewed its fleet, from the Czech Republic to New Zealand.
Thus, in a short time, Isaacman found himself the owner of a hundred fighters, more than the troops of many countries, and a kind of academy Top Gun located in a base near Las Vegas. The US Air Force itself, after a cost analysis, decided that it was cheaper to outsource its training services than to carry them out on its own.
Isaacman is passionate about aviation (and also other adrenaline-inducing activities). He owns several planes for his personal use, including a brand-new Ukrainian MiG-29 (previously owned by Paul Allen, the co-founder of Microsoft). Among his marks, at age 26 Isaacman set the world record for speed around the world in a light jet: less than 62 hours, pulverizing the previous mark in 20 hours.
With that background, it’s no wonder his next target was space. Thus, he closed a deal with Space X to charter the flight of a capsule Dragon to be the one who takes charge of the controls. The operation was also organized as part of a charity campaign in favor of St Jude Children’s Hospital in Memphis, with which Isaacman has collaborated for years.
The cost of the operation was reduced by using recycled rocket and capsule. Both have gone to space on other occasions. The rocket is a Falcon 9, which has flown twice putting various satellites into orbit; the capsule is the Resilience, which brought the first astronauts launched by Space X to the Space Station in November. The latter was linked to the ISS until May of this year. It only took four months to get ready for a new trip.
The flight will last about three days, at a maximum altitude of about 600 kilometers, almost twice the level at which the space station flies, which they will not visit. No astronaut has reached this height since the last service mission to the telescope Hubble, in May 2009.
In reality, although there are some experiments and medical tests planned, it is essentially a pleasure trip. To allow astronauts to enjoy the scenery, the bow mooring mechanism has been replaced by a large transparent plastic bubble that will offer extraordinary views. Better than those from the module Dome of the International Station in which there are, yes, six large windows, but separated by partitions that somehow obstruct the vision. For the crew of the Inspiration 4, leaning out will be almost like being suspended in the middle of space.
Rafael Clemente He is an industrial engineer and was the founder and first director of the Barcelona Science Museum (now CosmoCaixa). He is the author of A Small Step For [un] man (Dome Books).