Did SpaceX Inspiration4 Go to the International Space Station?

SpaceX, one of Elon Musk’s many ambitious projects, has gained notoriety because of the Inspiration4 mission. It was the first launch to include an all-civilian crew, the youngest American to enter space, and the first Black female spacecraft pilot. Additionally, the mission raised $200 million for cancer research, with a hefty portion donated by Musk himself.

So where did the crew go after heading into orbit? Did they get to visit another planet or the International Space Station? Now that they’re home safe and sound, we can reflect on this historic mission.

Who was on the SpaceX Inspiration4 crew?

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Inspiration4 crew launches from Pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, on September 15, 2021
The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Inspiration4 crew | CHANDAN KHANNA/AFP via Getty Images

Jared Isaacman was the captain of the civilian Inspiration4 crew. He is the founder of the Shift4 payment processing company. Isaacman also has years of flying experience under his belt, even training young Armed Forces pilots. He raffled off two of the other seats on the flight and awarded one to Hayley Arceneaux.

Arceneaux works at St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, which received all of the mission’s charity money. At a young age, she received lifesaving surgery from St. Jude’s, inspiring her to become a physician’s assistant there.

Dr. Sian Proctor is a geology professor and an analog astronaut. This wasn’t her first research-based mission: She also participated in a simulated journey to Mars to locate food sources. The first Black woman to pilot a spacecraft says she’s driven by the dream of making space accessible for all humans.

Chris Sembroski, the last member of the crew, is an engineer and a former Air Force pilot. Space has been one of his main passions for years. He volunteerss his expertise to a space nonprofit and space camp. Sembroski works as an aerospace data engineer.

What was the point of the SpaceX Inspiration4 mission?

The Inspiration4 crew successfully launched within its five-hour window the evening of September 15, 2021. NBC reported that the crew was aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule, a vehicle built primarily with NASA funds. The capsule was set to reach an altitude of 575 kilometers and remain in orbit for three days. 

According to an Inspiration4 press release, the mission’s goal was to raise awareness for St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, hence the fundraiser. Additionally, the crew conducted health research experiments aboard the spacecraft. These experiments will help doctors determine how space’s atmosphere affects the body.

The trip did not include a visit to the International Space Station. But the Inspiration4 crew flew “as far as 366 miles above Earth, which is more than 100 miles higher than the International Space Station,” The New York Times reported. “And they [were] farther from the planet than most astronauts who have gone to space since the end of NASA’s Apollo program in the 1970s.”

The International Space Station is a science lab where astronauts live. It’s as large as a house, with several bedrooms and a gymnasium, plus research facilities. Astronauts see the ISS as mankind’s first step to making space livable for humans.

Though it wasn’t a part of the Inspiration4 mission, the International Space Station has received plenty of resources from SpaceX. In August, the ISS got a fresh bundle of ants and a few other medical supplies from another SpaceX Dragon capsule. The capsule also contained replenishments of some of the astronauts’ favorite foods, including ice cream and avocados.

Who funded the mission?

In addition to being the commander, Jared Isaacman funded most of the mission, The New York Times reported. He did so because he said he believes in the mission of St. Jude’s and wants to make space habitable for everyone. Isaacman had previously participated in two other charity space flights, one of which broke a world record.

After a successful mission, the Inspiration4 crew splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean the following Saturday evening. Although Inspiration4’s SpaceX Dragon capsule didn’t touch base on any planets or the International Space Station, it was still a revolutionary mission. It has paved the way for similar research missions and more private spacecraft flights.

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