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Meet the First All-Civilian Space Crew

Updated: Jul 1, 2021

They are soon to orbit Earth for 3 days aboard SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsule, and aim to raise $200m for charity.

Left to right: Jared Isaacman, the entrepreneur financing the mission; Hayley Arceneaux; Sian Proctor; and Chris Sembroski.

Isaacman, a 38-year-old billionaire who dropped out of high school at age 16 to found a payments technology company, has chartered a SpaceX Crew Dragon space ship, which will orbit more than 300 miles above Earth - higher than the International Space Station - for three days. The billionaire paid the company an undisclosed price for all four seats. Three have gone to complete strangers.

"When I found out that Inspiration 4 was gonna be the first all-civilian mission to space, well then there's no chance that's going to be a bunch of fishing buddies going on a joy ride. That's something of significance, of responsibility. And we were going to make it really special," Isaacman said.

He donated two of the three remaining seats to St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, which specializes in pediatric cancers. 29 year old Physician's assistant Hayley Arceneaux is one of the recipients and will become the youngest American ever to fly in space. In 2002, Arceneaux was a patient at St. Jude's. She was 10 years old and being treated for bone cancer. She recovered after chemo and surgery, with a titanium rod in her left thigh bone. She now works in the same hospital that saved her life.

Sian Proctor, who teaches science at a community college in Phoenix, said she thought her space dream was over after being passed over as a finalist for NASA's astronaut program. Proctor got a ticket to come aboard Inspiration 4 by winning a contest for entrepreneurs. She said she would never forget the moment her dream of going to space was reignited.

Chris Sembroski, a 41-year-old engineer from Seattle, won the fourth seat through an online raffle to raise money for St. Jude's. While Sembroski actually lost the raffle, his friend won and gave him the chance. He recalled the moment he found out: "I ran upstairs after the call to talk to my wife and said, 'Honey, I'm going to ride a rocket.' And her response was, 'What?' And may daughter who was sitting there said, 'That's awesome. That's really cool, Dad.'" Sembroski said.

The flight will make history - but Isaacman hopes it also makes money, as a fundraiser for St. Jude's. His goal is to raise $200 million for the hospital. "We have a responsibility to take care of some of these problems here on Earth if we're gonna go and explore among the stars," he said.

Isaacman himself has already given $100 million to St. Jude's.


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