Hours before their scheduled Wednesday liftoff, the all-rookie crew of Inspiration4 opened up about their historic SpaceX mission.
Commander and billionaire businessman Jared Isaacman joined fellow crew members Hayley Arceneaux, Dr. Sian Proctor and Chris Sembroski at Florida’s Kennedy Space Center on Tuesday to answer questions about pre-mission jitters and what they plan to accomplish after their scheduled launch Wednesday at 8:02 p.m. ET.
Crew members also had a chance to speak with SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk before the launch.
“Elon… did give us his assurances again that the entire leadership team is solely focused on this mission and is very confident,” Isaacman said.
Inspiration4 will be the first orbital mission completely crewed by civilians who aren’t professional astronauts.
Isaacman acknowledged the mission includes a relative amount of acceptable risk and explained why it was important that the spacecraft attain an altitude of 575 km (357 miles), which is higher than the orbiting International Space Station.
“If we’re going to go to the moon again and we’re going to go to Mars and beyond, then we need to get a little outside of our comfort zone and take the next step in that direction,” Isaacman told reporters.
Inspiration4 is largely aimed at gathering scientific data on human performance in zero gravity.
Proctor, a geoscientist who was a finalist for NASA’s astronaut program, expressed excitement about her first trip to space.
“I was always worried that this moment would never come in my life,” she said. “So I’m ready to go. Let’s do it.”
She also acknowledged a personal challenge born from “growing up as a Black female and always trying to be a high achiever and not mess up … make sure you’re the best of the best because you’re opening up the door for the people who follow you.”
Proctor said she hoped to encourage a “path forward for that JEDI space—a just, equitable, diverse, and inclusive space that we all want to strive for.”
Mission specialist Sembroski joked that he’s looking forward to trying his hand at playing the ukulele in space. He said the crew’s six months of astronaut training has helped to build “confidence that there’s nothing that we can’t do if we put our minds to it.”
Arceneaux said she was excited about the mission, acknowledging that she had some jitters, but “any jitters are the good kind.” Mission officials say Arceneaux, 29, will be the youngest U.S. citizen to go to space.
She described one of the crew’s first training sessions as a team—hiking up Washington’s Mt. Rainier. “It definitely showed us that we can get through anything together,” she said. “We get along really well under pressure.”
Unlike recent flights to the edge of space by entrepreneurs Richard Branson of Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin’s Jeff Bezos, Inspiration4′s mission takes them into orbit—a much greater technological challenge. After three days in orbit, Inspiration4 is expected to splash down off the Florida coast.