Inspiration4 astronaut Sian Proctor reflects on historic SpaceX spaceflight experience

CAPE CANAVERAL (Fla.) Sian Proctor is now on cloud nine after her three-day-long spaceflight. The crew of the first human-civilian spaceflight mission, Inspiration4, was made up of Jared Isaacman and Hayley Arcenauex.
Proctor and the rest launched from Pad 39A, NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Sept. 15. They were strapped into a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft and launched on Sept. 15 from Pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The flight lasted three days, before they crashed to earth. Space.com spoke to her about the mission and how much she enjoyed flying in space.

After returning to Earth, Proctor said that the launch was "incredible." It was amazing.

"Everyone said it was the most beautiful launch they have ever seen. But sitting in the Dragon, hearing all the sounds it made was incredible.

Related: Inspiration4 - SpaceX's historic private flight in photos

Launch preparation

As part of a huge fundraising effort for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, the Inspiration4 crew was chosen. The initial goal of raising $200 million for the research center was exceeded by this mission. Isaacman bought the flight from SpaceX and donated one of the seats (Arceneaux), a frontline worker at St. Jude. The two remaining seats were given as part of a contest for millions.

After being selected, the four-member crew went through six months of training before they were able to strap into their Dragon spacecraft and launch into orbit. Proctor stated that SpaceX had prepared the crew for their flight, despite the fact that it took them a short time to complete the training.

Crew members were put through a series of training exercises that included survival training on Mt. Rainier, fighter jet training and many hours spent in the SpaceX Dragon simulator.

Proctor said that her spaceflight was comparable to her training. Proctor said that SpaceX had done a great job in preparing her, but nothing can compare to the actual flight.

"There is nothing quite like blasting through the atmosphere. And when you return to Earth, that's another level of excitement."

Proctor said that launch and landing were the most intense portions of the mission. It was quite an experience to transition from full gravity to weightlessness as the capsule returned to Earth. The crew was able to get an idea of how the G forces might feel at different points during the flight thanks to all the training.

Proctor answered the question of whether anyone became sick on the flight to space or landing. He was happy to say that everyone was fine and all were cheering when the parachutes came down.

Proctor admitted that she felt a little under the weather the first two days of space. However, Arceneaux who is a St. Juge physician assistant, was the crew's medical officer and made all the difference. Proctor stated that she is a "great crew member." "She was able help Chris and me when we first got into orbit, so that we didn’t get sick."

Living in space

SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsule has an interior about the same size as a minivan. This makes it quite cramped when four people must live in it for several days. Proctor stated that although the capsule is large, it doesn't feel cramped. She even called it "surprisingly spacious".

Proctor stated that they were used to living together in small spaces and that they get along well. "So, the bulk of it was learning how to maneuver around in zero gravity and negotiating space."

She added that it was also helpful to have done a sim [simulation] for 30 hours before."

Each member of the Inspiration4 crew was able pick out some of the food they would like to eat while in orbit. Proctor, however, wasn't quite as hungry as she expected. She said that space travel is similar to camping. You think you will be hungry, but you aren't. Proctor chose cold pizza as one of her choices, but her favorite meal was a BLT sandwich (bacon, lettuce, and tomato) on gluten-free bread.

She said, "Whoever created that sandwich, it's amazing." "I enjoyed that sandwich more than the pizza."

Proctor requested a spicy pizza and she added jalapeno. Because they're in space, fluids build up in their heads and cause them to feel congested. This is similar to if they were suffering from a cold on Earth. The pizza was great, but the BLT was simply amazing.

Proctor is an expert on space food. Proctor was an astronaut in Inspiration4 before she made her first spaceflight. She also completed several analog space missions. Proctor believes that sustainable food practices, such as those used in spaceflight, can reduce food waste on Earth.

She stated, "When we solve to space, we solve to Earth."

Proctor stated that navigating zero gravity was one of the most difficult challenges. He also noted that it took him longer to realize that things take a little longer in space than they do here on Earth. You also have to make sure your tools and other objects don’t get lost in space.

Proctor stated, "It's quite a bit of waste management." (Not to be confused with toilet waste). "Making certain that things are secure and don't end-up where they shouldn't."

Security extended beyond tools to include astronauts, especially at night. Proctor stated that crew members would secure themselves to their seats when it was time for sleep. Proctor soon found a better spot: below the seats, in the cargo area. She said, "I was like, "Well, I'm just going down under the cargo area because I could lie completely flat out and there is only one person to do that."

Spaceflight challenges

SpaceX officials disclosed that Crew Dragon's onboard toilet was having problems after the mission. It is located on the craft’s ceiling near the nose cone, where the cupola windows are. Benji Reed, SpaceX Director of Crew Mission Management, mentioned that the suction fan, a crucial component of the facility, was having problems after the splashdown. (Space is not gravity, so the fans are necessary to collect waste into the toilet.

At some point during flight, an alarm was raised indicating that something was wrong with the waste management system. Despite multiple communications blackouts, the crew was able solve it. Thankfully, there was never an Apollo 10 scenario.

Proctor would not confirm whether any crew member bravely took number two in space, despite the difficulties with the toilets. However, she did mention that it was difficult to use the restroom facilities. Proctor also said that the scenario demonstrated how hard they had trained and highlighted how well the crew got along.

Big blue marble

Crew-1 astronauts named the Crew Dragon capsule "Resilience" by Inspiration4 in November 2020. The craft was upgraded before its second orbital trip.

SpaceX engineers decided to take the docking adapter off the craft and replace it with a huge dome window. The cupola is a windowed dome that is a copy of the windows on the ISS.

The crew was stunned when the Dragon's nose cone opened, and they floated into the cupola. Proctor stated, "It was one of the most incredible experiences of my life." "I didn't know that we would be able see the whole Earth, and it was breathtakingly beautiful," Proctor said.

She said, "It was truly one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen." "Seeing the moon rise in that view and the swirling of the planet is beautiful, it's almost like moving art.

Proctor said that music was an integral part of their experience in orbit. There were special songs played at various points during the mission. The crew opened their nose cones, which exposed the cupola window of space to the sun, to hear the 2001: A Space Odyssey theme song.

She said, "I precisely timed it so that when the hatch opened there was space." It was loved by everyone.

They also play sci-fi themes songs from movies like "Star Wars" or other sci-fi films at various points during the mission. Proctor said that every crew member selected a playlist, and that they all had one together. The crew shared their choices with each other.

She said, "Music was a bond and a huge portion of the experience for me."

Continue reading: Inspiration4 SpaceX mission sends indie-pop song into orbit

Space art

Proctor was part of an online shop that sold poetry and artwork to help St. Jude, and won her place on Inspiration4. Proctor brought along her own supplies to use watercolor and draw while she was in orbit. Engineers created a set of brushes that she could use to paint in space and navigate how water works in absence of gravity.

She said that the brushes worked amazing and that painting in space isn’t much different to painting on Earth.

A very special piece was also taken with her by the astronaut: Richard Garriott, a private space traveler, had found it in the Mariana trench. Scott Parazynski, a NASA astronaut, also carried the artwork to the Titanic's wreckage. This means that the artwork can now be seen in outer space and the deepest ocean. Proctor states that the artwork will go up for auction and proceeds will be donated to St. Jude.

She said, "It's just one of a kind." "It was a wonderful experience to be able take that piece and my art to space. It's amazing.

Proctor and his crew also brought art. They also brought music and personal items that they plan to auction off to St. Jude.

Proctor stated that three things have "really influenced" him: Star Wars, Harry Potter and Star Trek. Proctor also said that a charm bracelet containing charms from each of these three subjects was one of the things he brought with him.

Proctor said that all the crew are Harry Potter lovers, with Isaacman and her belonging to house Gryffindor and Arceneaux and Sembroski both Hufflepuffs.

Proctor also brought a charm bracelet and Star Wars trading cards. Proctor said she was a Trekkie and would rather travel the galaxy than fight her way.

From one Falcon to the next

The Inspiration4 crew enjoyed some downtime after their space mission. Proctor enjoyed trips to her favorite fandoms.

Proctor and her family were able to visit Galaxy's Edge at Walt Disney World as well as Universal Studios' Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Proctor was able to cast spells with her favourite witches, wizards, and even try her hand at flying a different Falcon, the Millennium Falcon.

Proctor, along with her Inspiration4 crewmates, was able to view the Falcon 9 first-stage booster that took them into space. The massive booster was landed on the drone ship. "Just Read the Instructions" and it returned to port to be offloaded before being ready to fly again.

Proctor, Isaacman and Sembroki had the opportunity to get one last view of their Falcon 9 rocket while it was docked at SpaceX docks. Proctor was surprised to see that crew names were still visible. (Each crew member wrote their name in the soot on a booster before launch.

Proctor stated that it was "remarkable to see our booster." It was amazing to see it make it back without any problems, and then to go and visit it and see our names still there. It would have been hard to believe that it would be covered with more soot.

Her dream is realized

Proctor was born in the Apollo era. Her father worked at the Guam tracking station that tracked the historic Apollo 11 mission. Proctor has always dreamed of going to space her whole life.

She was inspired by her dream to apply to NASA's astronaut program in 1999. She made it to the last round of selections before she was cut. She thought she would never be able to go into space. Then, she got the call of her life.

Proctor stated that her father died before she reached space. However, Proctor said that he would be extremely proud and excited. She said that her father would have been thrilled and would have enjoyed every minute of the experience.

Proctor revealed that one of her father’s friends and coworkers from Guam now lives in Florida and was able attend the launch. He was there when Neil Armstrong visited, and he was there when I went into space.

She said, "It was really pleasant to see this through his perspective, knowing that he was one my dad's best friends," she continued. It made me so happy.

Next steps

Proctor said that now that she's back on Earth she will take some time to reflect and then focus on her art.

Although she says she would love the opportunity to return to space one day, she is content to enjoy the amazing experience for now and share it with the world through poetry and art.

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