While Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos have recently fueled stories about billionaires going on joyrides to space, the next example is a very different endeavor. On Wednesday, Shift4 Payments founder and CEO Jared Isaacman is scheduled to blast off on the SpaceX Dragon mission capsule for the Inspiration4 mission, which will orbit the Earth for three days. The event will mark the first-ever all-civilian mission. Isaacman has donated the remaining Dragon capsule seats to three other first-timers: Child cancer survivor Hayley Arceneaux, community college professor and former NASA astronaut finalist Sian Proctor, and data specialist Christopher Sembroski.
While Branson and Bezos traveled into microgravity for a few minutes, the Inspiration4 crew will actually orbit the earth at a distance of 575 kilometers — higher than the International Space Station — for three full days, and cameras will be there to capture the whole ride.
The current Netflix series “Inspiration 4 Mission to Space” has been following the recruitment and training for the participants, with new episodes airing in the build-up to the launch. IndieWire can exclusively report that on Wednesday, Netflix will host a 90-minute livestream show on YouTube covering the launch as the capsule blasts off from Kennedy Space Center.
The mission launch is scheduled for Wednesday, September 15 between 5:00 p.m. PT and 10:00 pm PT. Exact time is weather permitting and subject to change, as is always the case. Watch the full livestream below or here.
Hosted by “Queer Eye” regular Karamo Brown and journalist Soledad O’Brien, the event will include input and analysis from NASA astronauts Ron Garan and Cady Coleman, among others. Other regulars from Netflix series and films are expected to make surprise appearances.
Netflix’s livestream represents a unique risk: Traveling to space is inherently risky. Many things can go wrong when humans traverse the Earth’s atmosphere, as the series acknowledges with recaps of the Challenger and Columbia space shuttle missions — the former erupted during launch, and the latter upon its return. However, with the privatization of space stimulating a newfound excitement from the public in interplanetary endeavors, there have been a flurry of efforts to capitalize on entertainment opportunities surrounding space travel.
As IndieWire recently reported, last year’s initial launch of the Dragon capsule, which marked the first private company to send astronauts to the ISS, yielded 7.21 million viewers for Discovery during the two-hour launch window; the company has now greenlit a reality series, “Who Wants to Be an Astronaut?,” that will find the winning contestant traveling via SpaceX to the ISS next year.
These undertakings are only the tip of the iceberg, as Tom Cruise is reportedly in early talks for an ISS-based film project with director Doug Liman, and Russia is planning to send a two-person crew to shoot a drama at the end of the year.
However, the Inspiration4 mission represents a more specific effort to show the opportunities of modern space travel when anyone can buy a seat. The sweepstakes for the mission raised $13 million for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, where the 29-year-old Arceneaux was a patient before working there as an adult. Proctor will become only the fourth Black woman to go to space.
On the Netflix series, Isaacman is seen spending six months training with his crew and undergoing unique physical hurdles, including camping in Mount Rainier and spinning around in a giant centrifuge that imitates the physical endurance of the launch and reentry. Though on some level the program operates as an advertisement for SpaceX’s services, it’s also the first up-close look at a new era of spaceflight in which the boundaries between professional astronauts and ordinary citizens is about to get much blurrier.