SpaceX’s surprisingly secret Inspiration4 mission is a huge disappointment



The Inspiration4 crew in the Crew Dragon.

The Inspiration4 crew in the Crew Dragon.
image: Inspiration4

The civilian-only Inspiration4 crew has been in orbit for almost two days, but we’ve heard very little about what’s going on up there. SpaceX’s first private manned mission into space was certainly the one – private. The unexpectedly cautious approach made it anything but inspiring.

Inspiration4 started at 8:02 p.m. EDT on Wednesday from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. the Resilience Crew Dragon, embedded on a Falcon 9 rocket, launched into orbit with an exclusively private crew on a three-day mission – and not a single NASA astronaut in sight. With the launch, SpaceX officially entered the space tourism business, joining Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin. Jared Isaacman, Sian Proctor, Chris Sembroski and Hayley Arceneaux will now be the first private crew to go into orbit.

SpaceX has pulled out all the stops to make this futuristic luxury cruise as immune to criticism as possible. The look is almost perfect, because the Inspiration4 mission – with two men and two women – is expected to raise US $ 200 million for the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. And the achievements are really headline-grabbing as the trip is the first black woman to pilot a spaceship and the the first person to fly into space wearing a prosthetic body, Arceneaux, who is also a cancer survivor.

The view of the earth from the dragon dome.  This is one of only four photos published to date that show the crew in the Crew Dragon.

The view of the earth from the dragon dome. This is one of only four photos published to date that show the crew in the Crew Dragon.
image: Inspiration4

Don’t get me wrong now: These are all undeniably great and praiseworthy things, but the real goal of the mission cannot be misunderstood, namely that SpaceX should prepare the stage for future large-scale flights. Finally, the company run by Elon Musk plans charge $ 50 million per seat for these trips; Isaacman, the billionaire and founder of Shift4 Payments, paid an undisclosed amount for all four Inspiration4 seats.

To be clear, I’m not against the whole space tourism thing and I wish SpaceX and its staff all the best. What bothers me, however, is how the company, along with a surprising number of media and space experts, is shaping the mission as something that will make space travel more accessible to a wider public. As an example, the Washington Post recently quoted Alan Ladwig, director of To Orbit Productions, said that the “Inspiration4 mission is of particular importance because three of the crew members are not wealthy” and that they are “people who could be our neighbors, folks, with people you went to school with, people you “work with.”

Give me a break. In the future, it is doubtful that ultra-rich people will handpick ordinary people to join them on similar missions. And even if so, given the enormous cost, we are still talking about a tiny number of people; You’re better off playing the lottery – but again, you need to make sure the jackpot is big enough.

At some point, in a long, long time, ordinary people might be able to afford a short stay in space. At the moment it’s still very unreachable – hence my interest in the Inspiration4 mission and why I’m so disappointed with the way things went.

Since I cannot go into space yet, I had at least hoped to see the mission through the eyes of a civilian crew. We obviously have the technology to make this possible, be it regular tweets, live webcams, interviews with the crew, or a steady flow of stunning photos and videos.

But what we have so far is very little. A tweet of SpaceX announced on September 16 that the crew is “healthy, happy, and comfortable resting” and that they “have completed their first round of scientific research and enjoyed a few meals” before bed.

A short video of the dragon dome – a glass dome from which the crew can see their surroundings – was also released on Thursday, and today we were blessed with four photos shows the crew in the Crew Dragon.

There is also a tweet from Inspiration4, which confirms that the crew answered questions from patients at St. Jude, but no video or transcript of the session was provided. The crew has cleared their orbit Spotify playlist and also spoken to Musk, which is good for her, but who cares? Oh, we also learned that Isaacman did quite a bit Sports betting from space and that he won some money that he will donate to charity. I have to say sports betting wasn’t quite what I was expecting from this mission and it’s sad to believe that this is one of the very few pieces of information we’ve received.

After reaching out to SpaceX and Inspiration4 for more information, a PR firm that has the mission replied, “We won’t be recording live, but will continue to share assets and updates as they are sent to us,” and that i should just follow the updates on the Inspiration4 website. On this last point is the News area the Inspiration4 website has not been updated since launching on Wednesday.

If you look around the web, it becomes clear that other publications are experiencing similar frustrations.

“Not much information has been released since launch about the crew’s activities, which is the subject of an exclusive Netflix documentary.” writes the BBC. Chatting with Musk, William Harwood from Spaceflight Now called there was “no instant word of what they were talking about or details of the progress of the historical mission”. He added: “In contrast to NASA space flights, in which the space-to-ground communication between astronauts and air traffic controllers is carried out outdoors, there has been no public radio communication with the Inspiration4 crew and no downlink photos or videos since reaching it Orbit on Wednesday after launch from Kennedy Space Center. ”Harwood’s article appeared before the four new images were published, but his point of view remains the same.

And it’s not like there’s nothing to cover up. The crew doesn’t just float around the capsule – they supposedly eat cold pizza, play ukulele, enjoy spectacular views of the earth and space, and play a lot of health-related scientific experiments. I was very much hoping to see all of this and while it was happening.

Unfortunately, we get to the likely reason for the silent treatment: the Netflix documentaries mentioned above. The crew spends a good chunk of their time in space collecting videos for the fifth and final episode of the series, which probably explains why we see so little. You have to keep all the good stuff locked up, pack it through the production press, and then pack it all up for the public to see at a later date – that date is September 30th. What makes this particularly frustrating is that Netflix has promised to cover the mission in “almost in real time“And I don’t think that’s going to happen.

Some of you may argue and say that I have to be patient and that I will see all the good things in due course. But it’s not the same for me. I was hoping to get in touch with this interesting crew during the mission, but instead we pass out. And that sucks.

To update: SpaceX tweeted this afternoon that the crew will be providing a live update tonight which is a welcome development.

More: Smoke detector triggers an alarm in the Russian segment of the International Space Station.



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