When SpaceX’s Inspiration-4 mission lifts off from the launchpad that once saw Neil Armstrong soar to the heavens on Apollo-11, the crew on board will go down in the history books as the first all-civilian crew to leap into low Earth orbit. The September 15 launch will seal SpaceX as a leader in not just successfully launching and returning trained astronauts and cargo from space but also an amateur crew that has no experience in space travel and astrophysics.
While the trip will bring brownie points for Elon Musk amid his brawl with Jeff Bezos, the mission will lock Jared Isaacman into glory not just for commanding the all-civilian crew but also for philanthropy. Why? Because the billionaire is financing the four seats on the mission to raise awareness for a children’s hospital.
The four-member crew strapped into SpaceX’s Dragon capsule will orbit the Earth for three days before returning.
Who is Jared Isaacman?
Jared Issacman is the founder and chief executive officer of Shift4 Payments, which provides integrated payment processing and technology solutions “powering over 350 software providers across industries.” However, Issacman is more than a corporate guy in a suit.
At 38 years, the billionaire is an accomplished jet pilot, who is rated to fly commercial and military aircraft and holds several world records including two Speed-Around-The-World flights in 2008 and 2009 that raised money and awareness for the Make-a-Wish Foundation.
A high school dropout, Isaacman began his entrepreneurial ventures when he was just 15 years old. According to Forbes, at the age of 28, he started what would become the world’s largest ‘private air force’, Draken International, and then sold it to the defence contractor Blackstone. A decade later he is a billionaire who has taken his company public. Shift4 Payments today handles more than $200 billion in payments every year for a third of the US’s restaurants and hotels, including giants like Hilton, Four Seasons, KFC, Forbes reported.
An aviation enthusiast
The billionaire has financed the four seats, paying SpaceX an undisclosed amount for the three-day trip at an altitude that is above the Hubble Space Telescope’s orbit.
Isaacman has been part of several air shows flying around the world displaying his air superiority while sitting in a jet cruising at Mach speed. The billionaire boasts of an impressive lineup of nine planes in his garage including a MiG.
Starting from prop planes, Isaacman jumped to fighter planes and at the age of 26 years, he completed the fastest around-the-world flight in a light jet. He flew for 61 hours and 51 minutes, breaking the previous record by 21 hours. During that flight in 2009, he raised $100,000 for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. He then joined hands with Sean Gustafson, a member of US Air Force Thunderbirds (air display team) and formed an air-show squadron called the Black Diamond Jet Team.
He not only flies jets at speeds faster than the speed of sound but has been known to scale Mt. Vinson in Antarctica. While he failed to scale it due to dehydration, he has said he will try again.
Isaacman’s trip to space is different from Jeff Bezos & Richard Branson
The hype around space tourism began with Richard Branson’s flight to the edge of space onboard the Virgin Galactic flight earlier this year. Jeff Bezos followed him on Blue Origin’s maiden trip to space. Isaacman’s trip to space will be different from his predecessors, who had not more than 10 minutes to experience the flight, weightlessness and landing. His all-civilian trip will last three days.
SpaceX has already displayed the Cupola, designed on top of the crew Dragon, that will offer a unique view of the planet in its full glory.
During the three-day flight, the four-member crew will raise awareness and charity for St Jude Research Hospital while flying at 17,500 metres per hour around the planet.
“The crew of Inspiration4 is eager to use our mission to help make a better future for those who will launch in the years and decades to come. We are proud that our flight will help influence all those who will travel after us and look forward to seeing how this mission will help shape the beginning of a new era for space exploration,” Isaacman said.