Last month, the world’s first all-civilian space mission, operated by SpaceX, was launched. The spaceflight aboard SpaceX Dragon was dubbed Inspiration4 and had no professional astronauts on board. The four-person crew included billionaire Jared Isaacman, who acted as commander and is a space enthusiast and seasoned pilot, physician assistant Hayley Arceneaux, data engineer Chris Sembroski and geoscientist and science communication specialist Sian Proctor. The flight raised significant funds for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee.
After taking off on September 15, SpaceX Dragon orbited Earth for three days before splash landing off the coast of Florida on September 18. ‘Inspiration4 is the realization of a lifelong dream and a step toward a future in which anyone can venture out and explore the stars,’ Isaacman said. Isaacman holds several world records, including one for circumnavigating the Earth in a light jet, so he’s no stranger to breaking new ground.
While part of the mission’s goal was to usher in ‘a new era for human spaceflight and exploration,’ raising funds and awareness for St. Jude’s is significant to Isaacman. He told Space.com, ‘I’ve been very lucky in life; you really don’t get to a position that I’m fortunate enough to be in without the ball bouncing your way a couple times. These families [at St. Jude] were dealt horrible hands. They’re going through what no one should ever have to go through. It’s immense heartache, and the sad part is many of those kids will not grow up to have any of the experiences that I’ve been lucky enough to have in life. We’ve just got to do something about that.’
Interestingly, while none of the crew are professional astronauts, Proctor, 51, is a geology and planetary science professor and science communication specialist. In 2009, she was a finalist for the 2009 NASA astronaut selection process. She’s participated in different NASA-funded analog space missions.
While aboard SpaceX Dragon, all four crew members were afforded ample opportunity to observe and photograph. The crew had a professional-grade Nikon DSLR aboard (I’d guess a Nikon D6). You can see a quartet of the crew’s photos from orbit below.
“When you look up at the sky, you dream about being among the stars. When you’re with the stars and look down, you dream about being back on the earth.” — @ChrisSembroski
More stunning photos from our #Inspiration4 crew’s three-day journey to orbit 🌎 pic.twitter.com/ppZhzNJkQI
— Inspiration4 (@inspiration4x) September 29, 2021
It’s certainly not the first time we’ve seen stunning photos from orbit. After all, we see photos from the International Space Station (ISS) often. However, SpaceX Dragon orbited even higher than the ISS. The Inspiration4 crew orbited 575km (357 mi) above Earth, about 166km (103 mi) higher than the ISS. You can learn more about the mission by visiting the dedicated website.