SpaceX is set to launch four people
into space Wednesday on a three-day mission that is the first to orbit the
Earth with exclusively private citizens on board, as Elon Musk's company
enters the space tourism fray.
The "Inspiration4" mission caps a summer that saw billionaires Richard
Branson and Jeff Bezos cross the final frontier, on Virgin Galactic and Blue
Origin spaceships respectively, a few days apart in July.
The SpaceX flight has been chartered by American billionaire Jared
Isaacman, the 38-year-old founder and CEO of payment processing company
Shift4 Payment. He is also a seasoned pilot.
The exact price he paid SpaceX hasn't been disclosed, but it runs into the
tens of millions of dollars.
The mission itself is far more ambitious in scope than the few weightless
minutes Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin customers can buy.
The SpaceX Crew Dragon will be flying further than the orbit of the
International Space Station.
"The risk is not zero," said Isaacman in an episode of a Netflix
documentary about the mission.
"You're riding a rocket at 17,500 miles (28,000 kilometers) per hour around
the Earth. In that kind of environment there's risks."
SpaceX has already given no fewer than ten astronauts rides to the ISS on
behalf of NASA -- but this will be the first time taking non-professional
Lift-off is scheduled for Wednesday from 8:00 pm Eastern Time (0000 GMT)
from launch pad 39A, at NASA's Kennedy Center in Florida, from where the
Apollo missions to the Moon took off.