Editor's note: The Inspiration4 mission has reached orbit..
Hot on the rocket-fueled-heels of the billionaire space race, four "everyday people" are ready to make space history when they strap into a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule and go for a three-day joyride around our planet. The Inspiration4 mission, which doubles as a fundraiser for St. Jude Children's Hospital, is scheduled to launch as soon as Wednesday, and you can watch live right here.
What time is the SpaceX launch?
The five-hour launch window opens at 5:02 p.m. PT/8:02 p.m. ET.
"All systems and weather are looking good for today's Falcon 9 launch of Dragon's first all-civilian spaceflight," SpaceX tweeted Thursday. The video broadcast, from SpaceX, is scheduled to begin at 12:45 p.m. PT and can be found below.
The spacecraft will get off this rock with an assist from a Falcon 9 rocket leaving from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It'll be a similar process to how SpaceX launches NASA astronauts, but Inspiration4 won't be traveling to the International Space Station.
Inspiration4 is billed as "the world's first all-civilian mission to orbit." The crew will fly much higher and longer than Amazon founder Jeff Bezos or Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson did on their recent .
Meet the Inspiration4 crew
Billionaire Shift4 Payments founder Jared Isaacman is the commander of the mission, and he's also funding it. Isaacman is an experienced aircraft pilot. He was a member of the Black Diamond Jet Team, a civilian aerobatic team, and has flown in over 100 air shows. That pilot training gave him a solid foundation for learning the ropes of the Dragon spacecraft.
Childhood cancer survivor Hayley Arceneaux, aerospace industry professional Chris Sembroski and geoscientist Sian Proctor make up the rest of the crew. Arecenaux was treated at St. Jude and now works at the hospital as a physician assistant.
Sembroski was once a US Space Camp counselor, and also served in the US Air Force. Proctor has experience as an "analog astronaut" participating in simulated space missions on Earth. She will have the chance to put "real astronaut" on her resume.
The crew will conduct health research experiments during the flight, but the mission will also raise money for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, which specializes in treating childhood cancer. The spacecraft's payload includes mission jackets, a ukulele, from a variety of artists, plush toys and other items that'll be auctioned off as a fundraiser. The Samuel Adams brewery has committed up to $100,000 to St. Jude in exchange for 66 pounds of space-flown hops to make a special beer.
Why Inspiration4 matters
Space has typically been the domain of professional astronauts. Some space tourists have paid high prices to get to orbit, but that sort of tourism is still a rarity. Inspiration4 hints at the possibilities for the future of the industry. It also demonstrates how far spacecraft technology has come. The highly automated Crew Dragon provides a lot of safeguards for its civilian entourage. They've trained extensively for the mission, but it will be a testament to what the technology is capable of.
Inspiration4 has some strong sentiments on why the mission is important: "Inspiration4, the first commercial mission to space, may mark the beginning of the next Age of Exploration." That's a lofty concept, but it's not crazy. We're living at time when SpaecX founder by 2050. Inspiration4 suggests space could soon be in reach for more people than ever before.
Inspiration4 on Netflix
This may be one of the most well-documented crewed space missions ever. Netflix is running the Countdown: Inspiration4 Mission to Space docuseries following the crew from launch to landing. Three episodes are already available on the streaming service, with more to come. Netflix is also expected to stream the event live on its YouTube page.
Since Inspiration4 won't be docking with the ISS, SpaceX has instead kitted out thethat should provide spectacular views of Earth. But first they'll need to get to orbit with a lift from a very powerful rocket.