SpaceX’s Four Civilian Mission Aims to Raise Money for St. Jude Children’s Hospital and Pave Way for Space Tourism

By James White Thursday, February 4, 2021

As the aerospace industry becomes increasingly privatized, companies and businesses are seeking to make space travel more accessible. Companies like Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin are working on reusable spacecraft designs to reduce the cost of launches, paving the way for an entire industry of private and commercial space travel. Recently, SpaceX, a private aerospace company founded by Tesla CEO Elon Musk, announced its plan to launch a flight solely occupied by civilians.

“This is an important milestone toward enabling access to space for everyone,” Musk said.

Sunrise over Earth as seen from space.

Four Seats for Private Citizens, Some Available to the Public

Musk’s aerospace company will launch four crew members using the Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 booster rocket designed by the business. Commanding (and paying for) the historic endeavor, dubbed “Inspiration4,” is billionaire, entrepreneur, and jet pilot Jared Isaacman. Isaacman is the founder of Shift4 Payments, a secure payment processing company with a market cap of $5.82 billion.

Isaacman plans to use the launch as a fundraiser for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, a company dedicated to providing free treatment and care for children afflicted by “catastrophic diseases” like cancer.

"St. Jude's mission is not about rockets or space exploration, it's about treating some of the most heart wrenching conditions that any parent could imagine," Isaacman said. "And if we're going to continue making advances up there in space, then we have an obligation to do the same down here on Earth.”

Joining Isaacman aboard the spacecraft will be three crew members representing the pillars of the mission: Hope, Generosity, and Prosperity. The members have yet to be named; however, the member representing Hope is a St. Jude ambassador. The Generosity seat is available to the winner of a drawing entered by donating to St. Jude Children’s Hospital. The Prosperity seat is reserved for the winner of an entrepreneurial contest run by Shift4 Payments.

Businesses Tapping Into an ‘Out of This World’ Market

With today’s technological advancements in the aerospace industry, companies are now planning for tourism and travel businesses in space, both in and out of orbit. Currently, prices for such services are incredibly expensive and targeted toward the wealthy. Individuals reportedly paid $55 million each to be a part of a trip to the International Space Station.

Multinational investment bank UBS estimates that the space tourism business will be worth $3 billion by 2030. As a result, the firm expects the space industry as a whole to be worth some $805 billion by 2030, twice what the business was valued at in 2019.

Companies like Bezos’s Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic are vigorously pursuing private and commercial suborbital flights where customers of the businesses are able to experience weightlessness for several minutes. The Inspiration4 mission is unique in that the civilian crew will actually enter orbit and spend over a day in space. For now, the greatest hurdle to the space tourism industry is the cost to the consumer.

About the Author

Headshot for author James White

James White is a Michigan State University graduate with a B.S. in Environmental Biology. He is interested in reporting emerging trends in technology, especially with regard to alternative energy and environmental conservation.

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