Four amateur astronauts blasted off from Florida on their private mission to orbit.
The Inspiration4 crew, comprising one billionaire and three “ordinary citizens”, rode out of the Kennedy Space Center in a Dragon capsule provided by the SpaceX rocket company.
The quartet will spend the next three days circling the Earth.
Following this latest mission, there’ll be two privateer visits to the International Space Station (ISS) one in October, carrying a Russian movie director and an actress, and a second early in the New Year.
It’s another milestone in the space tourism market.
The Inspiration4 crew of Jared Issacman, Hayley Arceneaux, Sian Proctor and Chris Sembroski have had six months of intensive training with SpaceX. However, onboard computer systems will be in control of their Dragon capsule, overseen by SpaceX teams on the ground.
The Dragon is not going anywhere near the ISS. It’s on a “free flight” to a target altitude of 575km. That’s about 150km above the orbiting laboratory, and roughly the height from where the Hubble Space Telescope views the cosmos.
The four crew members will take up scientific experiments to be conducted inside their Dragon capsule, and SpaceX has modified their temporary home to include a big window, which the crew is sure to be using during downtime to wonder at the Earth below.
The Inspiration4 venture was purchased from SpaceX by Mr Isaacman, 38, who made his fortune developing systems to process credit card payments. But rather than go on an “outing with fishing buddies”, he decided, as he saw it, to inject real purpose into the flight.
So, he gifted the three adjacent seats to people with inspirational stories.
This is perhaps best illustrated in 29-year-old Hayley Arceneaux. She overcame bone cancer as a child and as an adult has gone back to work for the medical facility that cured.
Dr Sian Proctor, 51, is a geoscientist and science communicator. She actually came close to being a Nasa astronaut in 2009 but missed out in the final round of selection. Dr Proctor won her seat through her role as an artist and by demonstrating her entrepreneurial skills. She plans to paint while looking out the Dragon’s domed window.
Chris Sembroski, 42, is a US Air Force veteran and works as an engineer with aerospace company Lockheed Martin. He’d made a donation to St Jude that also entered him into a lottery draw for the fourth position in the crew.
Mr Sembroski didn’t win the lottery but a friend did, and asked him to take the place.