BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. – A science communicator and an aerospace worker were selected from thousands of applicants to fill the last two slots on SpaceX’s all-civilian mission to orbit Earth, the entrepreneur leading the flight said Tuesday.
Sian Proctor and Chris Sembroski, both of the science and aerospace communities, won seats on Inspiration 4, a Crew Dragon mission that will spend three days in orbit and is designed to benefit St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. They will join Jared Isaacman, the billionaire-entrepreneur who purchased the mission from SpaceX, and Hayley Arceneaux, a healthcare worker representing St. Jude’s.
SpaceX is targeting no earlier than Sept. 15 for the liftoff from Kennedy Space Center’s pad 39A. After three days in orbit at an altitude of about 335 miles the crew will splash down off the coast of Florida for recovery.
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Proctor will fill the seat nicknamed “Prosperity,” selected based on an entrepreneur’s ability to raise funds for the hospital using Isaacman’s Shift4 Payments platform. Proctor, 51, is an educator and trained pilot who was a finalist in NASA’s 2009 astronaut class. She is a geoscience professor at South Mountain Community College in Phoenix, Arizona.
Proctor was selected from a pool of about 200 entrepreneurs who applied.
“It’s like opening up the chocolate bar and seeing the golden ticket to Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” Proctor told NBC’s Today in a segment aired Tuesday. “This is the example of that for space.”
Sembroski, a 41-year-old who works at Lockheed Martin in Seattle, was selected from nearly 72,000 entries to fill the “Generosity” slot based on donations to the St. Jude’s campaign. He’s a longtime advocate of space and maintained Minuteman III ballistic missiles during his time in the Air Force. He also used to be a space camp counselor at Kennedy Space Center some 20 years ago.
“Although I’ve been fortunate to have spent years in the aerospace industry, I never imagined having the opportunity to reach the stars, especially through something as simple as supporting St. Jude,” he said in a statement from Inspiration 4.
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Isaacman’s purchase of the mission from SpaceX fulfills a lifelong dream. The 38-year-old worth about $2.5 billion said his long-held passions for spaceflight and aviation pushed him to make Inspiration 4 happen, all while raising $113 million for the Memphis, Tennessee, based St. Jude’s.
He selected 29-year-old Arceneaux – herself a St. Jude’s childhood cancer survivor – to represent the hospital, which is looking to expand its facilities and research capabilities. She will serve in a medical role on the flight and oversee experiments and crew care.
“The stars are aligned with the crew of Inspiration 4,” Isaacman said via Twitter on Tuesday. “This mission is only possible because of the hard work, sacrifice and accomplishments of tens of thousands of people at NASA, SpaceX and for the vision and foresight of Elon Musk. Thank you.”
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None of the parties involved have confirmed how much Isaacman paid for the Crew Dragon mission, though it is easily at least tens of millions of dollars. He is covering all expenses, including tax implications, for his four-person crew.
The Crew Dragon capsule hosting their flight to low-Earth orbit is actually there right now: nicknamed Resilience, the spacecraft took astronauts Mike Hopkins, Victor Glover, Shannon Walker, and Soichi Noguchi to the International Space Station in November.
Follow reporter Emre Kelly on Twitter: @EmreKelly