SpaceX just successfully launched the Inspiration4 mission, sending the first civilians to space. It’s a momentous occasion, one step toward space travel for all. In fact, more people are floating around in space right now than ever before, with 14 in total. So let’s meet Jared Isaacman, Hayley Arceneaux, Sian Proctor, and Chris Sembroski, the only four amateur astronauts in space right now.
Jared Isaacman is a businessman and a jet pilot
Born in 1983, Jared Isaacman is the CEO of Shift4, a payment processing solution to keep money safe and secure as businesses shuffle it around. He started the company when he was 16 years old, and is now worth 2.4 billion dollars. A small chunk of change compared to Jeff Bezos, but more than enough to earn him a spot on the SpaceX Inspiration4 Mission.
The other key factor as to why he’s on the rocket is his experience flying jets. Right now he’s rated to fly commercial and military aircraft, but is best know for his aerobatics flying. In 2008 and 2009, he earned two Speed-Around-The-World records, flying around the world in 62 hours. Both of these attempts were made on behalf of the Make-A-Wish foundation in order to raise money.
Jared Isaacman has also flown in hundreds of airshows as a member of the Black Diamond Jet Team. All this, while simultaneously co-founding Draken International, the largest private air force used. to help train pilots that’ll serve in the United States Armed Forces.
Hayley Arceneaux is a physician assistant at St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital
This is where the SpaceX Inspiration4 mission begins to make sense if it seemed pointless to you before. Hayley Arceneaux is a physician assistant at St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, the main sponsor and benefactor behind this entire mission. Onboard the Dragon capsule currently in orbit are hundreds of objects up for auction, and %100 of the proceeds go to St. Judes.
But more symbolic than anything is Hayley’s story. When she was 10 years old, she developed an ache in her knee that the doctor thought was a simple sprain. It turned out to be osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer. And in order to save her life, she needed surgery.
St. Judes is the hospital that provided her chemotherapy, and surgery that spared her leg from being amputated. So in 2016, she attained her PA license and now works for the very same hospital that saved her life. And now she’s supporting the same cause in space.
Chris Sembroski has backed the idea of space exploration since college
Chris Sembroski is an engineer by trade, serving in the Air Force until 2007. During his military tenure, Chris maintained a fleet of Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles. And afterward, he earned a B.S. in Professional Aeronautics from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. He currently works for Lockheed Martin, aiding aerospace efforts.
However, his love of space started early on, and he’s been backing the idea of space travel well before this SpaceX Inspiration4 mission. From supporting the grassroots organization ProSpace, which pushed for space legislation in Washington, to working as a Space Camp Counselor. Chris has encouraged the educational potential of space travel for STEM students and beyond.
Dr. Sian Proctor has space travel in her blood
Dr. Sian Proctor was born in Guam while her father worked at the NASA tracking station during the Apollo missions. And while Dr. Sian hadn’t been to space (before now), she’s considered an analog astronaut. Analog astronauts perform simulations of space missions, one of which was the all-female Sensoria Mars 2020 mission. She also partook in the NASA-funded four-month Mars mission simulation to research food strategies for long-duration spaceflights.
But Dr. Sian sees space as more than just an end goal, but an inclusive place for all humans (maybe even beings). She hopes to create a Just, Equitable, Diverse, and Inclusive space for all of humanity (otherwise known as a J.E.D.I. space). Her qualifications include a B.S. in Environmental Science, an M.S. in Geology, and a Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction: Science Education. And while she’s professional and driven, there’s always room for fun, having published the Meals for Mars cookbook.
All four of the civilians orbiting earth right now bring their own characteristics to the table. Some are pilots, dreaming of pushing the boundaries of space flight, others are visionaries of what the future could be like. But they’re all symbols of hope, proving that regular people can do extraordinary things, all for a good cause.