I guess once was not enough. Billionaire Jared Isaacman wants to spend even more money sending private citizens into space aboard SpaceX spacecraft. He funded his first private flight last September, called Inspiration 4, and now wants to do three more of these flights. The first one raised funds for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, whereas it is not clear whether these other voyages also relate to charitable causes.
Space tourism is all the rage these days, with Captain Kirk going up on Blue Origin’s capsule and Virgin Galactic sending Sir Richard Branson into space in preparation of paying customers in the near future. SpaceX always seemed to have more serious goals, but I suppose a buck is a buck.
The first of these three new flights is planned for later this year and will include a spacewalk and science experiments. The second will involve SpaceX’s Dragon, which is currently used for trips to the International Space Station (ISS). The third will involve SpaceX’s Starship created for lunar missions under NASA’s Artemis program.
Apparently, these new missions are expected to “…serve a bigger purpose of opening up space for everyone and making humankind a multiplanetary species, and ideally, have a benefit for the things we’re trying to accomplish back here on Earth.” Once might ask whether this bigger purpose, such as space walks and science experiments, can already be performed by professional astronauts aboard the ISS. It is hard to believe these new vanity missions are critical. And maybe dangerous stunts on such missions should only be performed by a professional team, but Mr. Isaacman wants to command the mission. I cannot see how having an accident on one of these flights will benefit SpaceX. I can still remember the blow-back after sending (and losing) the first teacher to space.
Space is still a dangerous place. Maybe money should not trump everything, including common sense. This seems more like a bored corporate executive spending $500,000 on a new fire truck, setting a few old buildings on fire, and then going in with an inexperienced crew to have fun putting out the blaze while claiming he is advancing the science of firefighting. I am not convinced.