SpaceX CEO Elon Musk noted on Saturday night that he would be donating $50 million towards Inspiration4’s $200 million fundraising goal for St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital. Musk’s donation effectively boosted the $100 million already donated by mission commander and Shift4Payments CEO Jared Isaacman, as well as the $60.2 million raised by the public.
Apart from being the first-ever all-civilian space mission, Inspiration4 is, more importantly, a massive fundraising campaign for St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital. The mission had an initial goal of raising $200 million, and with Musk’s donation, Inspiration4 has effectively raised a total of $210 million. Such an amount would help St. Jude in its continued efforts to help children and fight cancer among the young.
Inspiration4 launched on Wednesday using a flight-proven SpaceX Falcon 9 and a Crew Dragon spacecraft custom-fitted with the largest window ever launched on a rocket. Apart from Isaacman, the crew also included pilot Sian Proctor, medical officer Hayley Arceneaux and mission specialist Chris Sembroski. Arceneaux was previously a cancer patient at St. Jude, and she was 10 when she had surgery to replace her knee and get a titanium rod in her left though bone.
Unlike the brief jaunts to space conducted by fellow private spaceflight firms Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin in previous months, the crew of Inspiration4 spent a total of three days in space, orbiting the Earth at an altitude as high as 590 km. That’s above the International Space Station and the furthest that humans have traveled above the surface in years.
Inspiration4 heralds a number of milestones for commercial spaceflight. Inspiration4’s crew is the first group of nonprofessionals to become astronauts. Medical officer Hayley Arceneaux currently stands as the youngest American astronaut to date, and she is also the first person to fly to space with a prosthesis. Pilot Sian Proctor also stands as the first Black female spacecraft pilot.
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