For billionaire Jared Isaacman, the era of space tourism has begun

Jared Isaacman is not a professional astronaut, but by the end of the year the young billionaire will have circled the Earth several times at the head of a space mission made up entirely of tourists.

The tech entrepreneur will take off aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, in what will be the first fully civilian mission to Earth orbit, which he will command and pay for himself.

The mission, named Inspiration4, “is the first step in a world where anyone can travel among the stars,” Isaacman said with a huge smile as he explained the project to AFP outside SpaceX headquarters in the Los Angeles suburb of Hawthorne. .

The CEO of payment processing company Shift4 Payments, which he founded at age 16 in his basement, is an experienced pilot, qualified to fly military planes, and already holds a world record for flying around the world in light spray in less than 62 hours.

In 2012, he even founded his own company that trains pilots for the US military, Draken International.

“I have been passionate about space and aviation for as long as I can remember,” said the 37-year-old. “When I was in kindergarten, I remember looking at space shuttle picture books. I told my kindergarten teacher that one day I will go to space.”

If all goes according to plan, her childhood dream will come true in the last quarter of this year, according to SpaceX.

And the magical journey is something he intends to share.

Isaacman will be joined by three other novice astronauts for the multi-day trip – including a lucky winner of a drawing – aboard the same model Dragon spacecraft that transported four astronauts to the International Space Station in November 2020.

– “Everyday people” –

“Probably the most exciting part of this mission is that we are opening up this crew selection process to ordinary people,” Isaacman said.

“You have people walking around today who don’t realize in 30 days that they’re going to be outfitted for a spacesuit,” he added.

The idea, said Isaacman, is to have a crew that reflects “the key pillars of the mission”: hope, generosity and prosperity.

The “hope” seat will go to a healthcare worker who survived childhood cancer after treatment at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, specializing in childhood cancers and pediatric diseases.

The second seat, “generosity,” will be part of a fundraiser for the hospital, he said, with a name drawn among donors online. Isaacman himself also donates $ 100 million to the St. Jude organization.

The third seat, which symbolizes “prosperity”, will go to an entrepreneur who can best explain “how his business is going to make a difference in the world”.

The competition is open to U.S. residents over the age of 18, but does not require any unusual physical or technical skills, he said.

Isaacman said SpaceX CEO and founder Elon Musk told him that “if you can handle a really, really tough roller coaster, you should be able to ride Dragon.”

NASA’s astronaut selection process is so demanding that “you’re more likely to be struck by lightning,” but that’s not the case here, Isaacman said.

Its mission is expected to last for several days, during which space tourists will orbit the globe every 90 minutes, but will not just watch the Earth pass below.

“We intend to spend a great deal of our time working on experiments” on behalf of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital or other organizations, Isaacman said.

At the end of the mission, the capsule will reenter Earth’s atmosphere for a water landing off Florida.

Isaacman does not rule out sending more tourists into space: if the mission is successful, he said, then “there will be a huge number of people who will have the opportunity to climb and explore among the stars. “.

ban / bfm / caw / oho

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