Up until the new millennium, only professional astronauts were able to leave the Earth and head for the stars. But now, space is beginning to open up to civilians — at least those with big enough bank accounts. Later this year, however, one lucky individual will launch into zero gravity, potentially for free, as part of the first all-civilian space mission.
Space tourism is closer to reality than ever before, as private spaceflight companies develop new modes of transportation to get humans to the stars. Just last week, we introduced you to three space tourists who booked a several-day trip to the International Space Station in 2022 through Axiom Space. And companies like Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic are on the cusp of flying their own customers on sightseeing journeys to the edge of space.
But space tourism isn't cheap. The Axiom passengers, for instance, each paid $55 million for their journey. And while some companies such as Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic are relatively affordable by comparison, they'll still charge an estimated $250,000 per seat. For most space enthusiasts, those prices are out of reach.
This month, however, the general public has the chance to win an all-expenses-paid ride to space, courtesy of Jared Isaacman, founder and CEO of tech company Shift4 Payments. The 37-year-old billionaire has essentially chartered a flight to space as a fundraising effort for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. Dubbed Inspiration4, the mission will be a several-day orbital journey aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule, and it could launch as soon as October.
As a trained pilot, Isaacman will serve as commander, while the other three seats in the spacecraft will be given away to members of the public. One of those passengers has already been selected: an as-of-yet unnamed frontline healthcare worker with St. Jude. Another will be determined via a contest open to entrepreneurs who use the Shift4 platform (details here). But the spacecraft's final seat will be raffled off, with all proceeds benefiting St. Jude.
While you don't have to pay to enter the sweepstakes (which is only open to U.S. residents who are at least 18 years old), you will receive 10 entries per dollar donated to St. Jude via this Prizeo campaign, up to a maximum of 10,000 entries. And there are additional prizes for big donations, such as a flight aboard a military jet.
Isaacman has already independently pledged a $100 million donation to the hospital, and he hopes the sweepstakes will raise an additional $200 million. "Inspiration4 is the realization of a lifelong dream and a step toward a future in which anyone can venture out and explore the stars," Issacman said in a statement. "I appreciate the tremendous responsibility that comes with commanding this mission, and I want to use this historic moment to inspire humanity while helping to tackle childhood cancer here on Earth."
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