Who Is SpaceX Inspiration4 Billionaire Backer Jared Isaacman?

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has had a hand in creating cars, futuristic trains, robots, and even private spacecraft. Unlike many of Tesla’s offshoots, SpaceX has multiple accomplishments to its name. It has sent spaceships and satellites into orbit, one even delivering supplies to the International Space Station.

It was recently applauded for the launch of the Inspiration4 flight, which featured an all-civilian crew. These flights cost a considerable chunk of money to construct the ship, properly clothe the astronauts, and launch. Fortunately, SpaceX has the help of wealthy individuals like Jared Isaacman.

SpaceX building with launchpad in the background.
SpaceX | Getty Images

The SpaceX Inspiration4 mission

According to Space, the Inspiration4 crew took their mission inside a Dragon Shuttle launched by the Falcon 9 booster. The spacecraft launched on September 15 and orbited around Earth for three days before splashing back down.  The shuttle and the rocket underwent testing a few days before to ensure everything was functional for liftoff. The mission’s goal is to raise awareness about private space travel, with some charity incentives. 

Aboard the shuttle were four crew members, headed by the mission’s commander: Jared Isaacman. He donated two of the four seats to his fellow crewmates, one directly through St Jude’s and another through a charity raffle. One of them was Hayley Arceneaux, who works as a physician assistant at St. Jude’s Hospital. It’s a fitting choice considering the Dragon shuttle carried hundreds of items for sale to benefit the hospital’s research program.

Dr. Sian Proctor was also enlisted in the mission, who had previously worked as an analog astronaut for a NASA-funded mission. Analog astronauts are spacesuit testers and help organize simulation missions.

The remaining seat was won by another wealthy entrepreneur, who ultimately gave it to Chris Sembroski. A former military man, Sembroski is also an engineer with a degree in aeronautics. Since he was small, he’s been a fan of space travel, which is likely why he was offered the seat.

Who is Jared Isaacman?

The Inspiration4 commander, who CNBC says is worth around $2.4 billion, also funded the mission. He is the founder of Shift4 Payments, a payment processing company that serves many retail, hospitality, and healthcare industries. He also helped start Draken International, a pilot training facilitator for the military. Isaacman is a pilot himself and frequently participates in air shows.

Isaacman worked out a deal with SpaceX to fund the mission, though he did not state the exact amount. A Shift4 spokesperson also said that the company did not donate any revenue, so it was from Isaacman’s pocket. The rocket itself cost $28 million to launch, so we can assume it was in the eight-digit range.

He also made a personal donation of $100 million to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, the primary beneficiary of the Inspiration4 mission. Isaacman is no stranger to charity, previously participating in charity flights for the Make-A-Wish foundation. During the second of these flights in 2009, he set a world record for circumnavigating the globe. According to India Today, that flight raised $100,000 for the organization.

Why did Jared Isaacman fund SpaceX Inspiration4?

The Independent says that Isaacman funded the mission primarily because he was dedicated to the charity.  He also told KTLA that he envisions a world where everyone can live in space if they wish, similar to “The Jetsons.” He believes that conquering childhood cancer is an essential step to that reality. 

It’s a breath of fresh air considering other billionaires, like Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos, take leisure trips to space. Instead of just flexing his massive amounts of cash, Isaacman wants to make a difference.

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