Jared Isaacman (centre left) with Chris Sembroski, Hayley Arceneaux and Sian Proctor at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Florida, on March 29, 2021. Source: Inspiration4/Handout via Reuters.
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  • The final places on a four-member crew have been filled ahead of a SpaceX launch later this year, which is being billed as the first all-civilian spaceflight in history
  • Known as Inspiration4, the mission seeks to raise awareness and support for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, and was conceived by billionaire entrepreneur Jared Isaacman
  • The flight will take place some time after September 15 and is expected to last three or four days
  • As mission “commander,” Isaacman is joined by physician’s assistant Haley Arceneaux, aerospace industry employee Chris Sembroski and geoscience professor Sian Proctor
  • All four will undergo an extensive training program based on the curriculum that NASA astronauts use to prepare for SpaceX missions

The final places on a four-member crew have been filled ahead of a SpaceX launch later this year, which is being billed as the first all-civilian spaceflight in history.

They were revealed at a news briefing that was live-streamed from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida by SpaceX human spaceflight chief Benji Reed and billionaire entrepreneur Jared Isaacman, who conceived the mission partly as a charity drive.

Isaacman, founder and CEO of e-commerce firm Shift4 Payments, will hand over an as-yet unspecified — but presumably extravagant — sum to SpaceX owner Elon Musk to fly himself and three others into orbit aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule.

The flight will take place some time after September 15 and is expected to last three or four days.

“When this mission is complete, people are going to look at it and say this was the first time that everyday people could go to space,” Isaacman, 38, told reporters.

Known as Inspiration4, the mission seeks to raise awareness and support for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital — a leading pediatric cancer centre to which Isaacman has personally donated US$100 million (roughly A$131.5 million).

Under the role of mission “commander”, Isaacman in February designated 29-year-old Haley Arceneaux — a physician’s assistant at St. Jude, bone cancer survivor and one-time patient at the Tennessee-based hospital — as his first crewmate.

On Tuesday, 41-year-old Chris Sembroski — a Seattle-area aerospace industry employee and U.S. Air Force veteran — was selected through a sweepstakes that drew 72,000 applicants and raised US$113 million (roughly A$148.6 million) in St. Jude donations.

The final member, 51-year-old Sian Proctor — a geoscience professor at South Mountain Community College in Phoenix, Arizona, and entrepreneur who was once a NASA astronaut candidate — was chosen separately through an online contest run by Shift4 Payments.

All four will undergo an extensive training program based on the curriculum that NASA astronauts use to prepare for SpaceX missions.

While the Inspiration4 mission will mark a new chapter in space exploration, it’s not the only all-civilian launch in the works.

British billionaire Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic enterprise is developing a spaceplane to carry paying customers on suborbital excursions.

At the same time, SpaceX is planning a launch — potentially next year — of a retired NASA astronaut, a former Israeli fighter pilot and two other people in collaboration with Houston-based private spaceflight firm Axiom Space.

Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa will also pay Musk to fly around the moon in 2023, the proceeds from which will be used to help finance the development of Musk’s new heavy-lift Starship rocket for missions to Mars and the moon.

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