Although the all-civilian Inspiration4 crew is in orbit for almost two days, we have not heard much about what's happening up there. SpaceX's first private crewed space mission was most definitely thatprivate. It was a surprisingly quiet mission that has been inspiring.
At 8:02 p.m. ET on Wednesday, Inspiration4 was launched from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The Resilience Crew Dragon was atop a Falcon 9 Rocket and embarked on a three day mission to orbit with a private crew. Not one NASA astronaut was visible. SpaceX joined Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin, and SpaceX in the space tourism industry with the launch. Jared Isaacman and Sian Proctor along with Chris Sembroski and Hayley Arceneaux will be remembered as the first private crew to orbit Earth.
SpaceX did everything possible to ensure that this futuristic luxury cruise was as unaffected by criticism as possible. The optics are perfect as the Inspiration4 mission, which will feature two men and two woman, is expected to raise $200 million for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. The achievements are worthy of headlines, with Arceneaux, a survivor of cancer, being the first Black woman in spacecraft piloting and Arceneaux the first person to fly in space with a prosthetic body.
Don't get me wrong, these are all admirable and wonderful things. But, there is no doubt that the real goal of the mission is to allow SpaceX to create the conditions for future high-end flights. Elon Musk's company plans to eventually charge $50 million per seat for these trips. Isaacman, the billionaire founder Shift4 Payments paid an undisclosed sum for each of four Inspiration4 seats.
SpaceX and its employees deserve my support. However, what bothers me is the way SpaceX, along with surprising numbers of media outlets, portrays the mission as something that will make spaceflight more accessible to the wider public. The Washington Post quoted Alan Ladwig (head of To Orbit Productions) as saying that the Inspiration4 mission was of special importance because three crew members aren't wealthy. He also said that these people could be our neighbors, people we went to school with, or people you work with.
Give me a break. It is unlikely that wealthy individuals will select ordinary people to join them in similar missions. Even if they do, it is still doubtful that wealthy individuals will hand-select ordinary people to join them on similar missions. It would be better to play the lottery, but again, make sure the jackpot amount is sufficient.
In the future, normal people may be able to afford short sojourns into space. But that will take a very long time. It is still out of reach for me at the moment, which is why I am disappointed in how things are going.
Although I cannot yet travel to space, I was hoping to be able to experience the mission through the eyes of civilian crew members. This is possible because we have the technology, such as regular tweets and live webcams, interviews, or eye-popping photos, videos, to communicate with the crew.
However, we have only a few things to show for it. On September 16, SpaceX tweeted that crew members are happy, healthy, and resting comfortably. They also said that they had completed their first round in scientific research before getting to bed.
On Thursday, a short video was released of the Dragon Cupolaa dome glass from which crew members can see their surroundings. Today we were also blessed with four photos that show the Crew Dragon.
Inspiration4 also tweeted that the crew answered questions at St. Jude. However, no transcript or video was made. The crew also released their in-orbit Spotify playlist. They also spoke with Musk, which is great for them but not for us. We also found out that Isaacman played some sports from space, and won some money which he will donate towards charity. It was not what I expected from this mission. This is a sad fact.
After reaching out both SpaceX as well as Inspiration4, a PR firm representing SpaceX said that they would not be recording live but would continue to share assets and update us as they come down. I should instead follow the Inspiration4 website for updates. The news section on the Inspiration4 website has not been updated since Wednesday's launch.
It is clear from the internet that similar frustrations are being experienced by other publications.
The BBC reports that not much has been published about the activities of crew members since launch. Spaceflight Nows William Harwood, Spaceflight Nows' spokesperson, said that there is no information available about Musk's conversation or details about the historic mission. He also stated: "Unlike NASA space flights in which communication between astronauts and ground controllers takes place in the open," but Harwoods article was published before the new four photos were released, but his point remains.
It's not like there is nothing to cover. They aren't just floating around in the capsule, they are reportedly eating cold pizza, playing the guitar, and taking in stunning views of Earth, space, and doing a variety of science-related experiments. It was something I wanted to see, and it was happening.
We now come to the probable reason for the silence: the Netflix docuseries. It is likely that the crew is spending so much time in space, collecting video for the final episode. The crew must keep the good stuff secret, then put it through production and finally package it up for the public at some future date, September 30. This is especially frustrating because Netflix claimed that they would cover the mission in real-time. I don't believe that this is happening.
You may disagree with me, stating that I should be patient and that I will see all the good stuff eventually. It's not the same for me. I had hoped to meet this crew while the mission was going on, but they were being blacked-out. That's a bummer.
Update: SpaceX has tweeted that they will be providing a live update on the spacecraft this evening. This is a very welcome development.
Additional: A smoke detector activates alarm in the Russian segment of International Space Station