Friday, March 5, 2021

Billionaire draws raffle on SpaceX flight to fund cancer research | Space News

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An American billionaire who has made his fortune in technology and fighter jets is buying an entire SpaceX flight and plans to take three people with him on a round-the-world trip this year.

In addition to fulfilling his dream of flying into space, Jared Isaacman announced Monday that he plans to use the private trip to raise $ 200 million for St Jude Children’s Research Hospital, half from his own pockets.

A health worker for St Jude has already been selected for the mission. Anyone donating to St Jude in February will be entered into a draw for seat number three. The fourth seat will go to a business owner who uses Shift4 Payments, Isaacman’s credit card processing company in Allentown, Pennsylvania.

“I really want us to live in a world 50 or 100 years from now where people are jumping in their rockets like the Jetsons and there are families bouncing on the moon with their child in spacesuits,” Isaacman, who will be 38 next week, told The Associated Press.

“I also think that if we are to live in this world, we had better beat childhood cancer along the way.”

He bought a Super Bowl ad to publicize the mission, dubbed Inspiration4 and targeted for October. Details of the ride in a SpaceX Dragon capsule are still being worked out, including how many days the four will be in orbit after taking off from Florida. The remaining passengers will be announced next month.

Isaacman’s Voyage is the latest private space travel announcement. Three businessmen are pay $ 55 million each to fly to the International Space Station next January aboard a SpaceX Dragon. And a Japanese businessman made a deal with SpaceX to fly to the moon in a few years.

Isaacman would not disclose how much he pays SpaceX, except to say that the planned donation to St Jude “far exceeds the cost of the mission.”

While a former NASA astronaut will accompany the three businessmen, Isaacman will be his own spaceship commander. The call, he said, is to learn all about SpaceX’s Dragon and Falcon 9 rocket. While capsules are designed to fly autonomously, a pilot can override the system in an emergency.

A “space geek” since kindergarten, Isaacman dropped out of high school at age 16, earned a GED certificate, and started a business in his parents’ basement that became the genesis of Shift4. . He set a speed record by flying around the world in 2009 while raising funds for the Make-A-Wish program, then created Draken International, the world’s largest private fleet of fighter jets.

Isaacman’s $ 100 million pledge to St Jude in Memphis, Tennessee is the largest ever made by a single individual and one of the largest overall.

“We pinch ourselves every day,” said Rick Shadyac, president of the St Jude fundraiser.

In addition to SpaceX training, Isaacman plans to take his crew on a mountain expedition to mimic his most uncomfortable experience yet – attempting a mountain side in harsh winter conditions.

“We’re all going to get to know each other… great before the launch,” he said.

He is fully aware of the need for things to go well.

“If something is wrong, it will reduce everyone else’s ambition to become a commercial astronaut,” he said from his home in Easton, PA.

Isaacman said he signed with Elon Musk’s company because they were clearly the leader in commercial spaceflight, with two astronaut flights already completed. Boeing has yet to bring astronauts to the NASA space station. While Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin expect to start stealing customers later this year, their craft will only briefly roam the surface of space.

Isaacman had installed space flight probes for years. He traveled to Kazakhstan in 2008 to see a Russian Soyuz take off with a tourist on board, and then a few years later witnessed one of NASA’s last space shuttle launches. SpaceX invited him to the company’s second astronaut launch for NASA in November.

While Isaacman and his wife, Monica, managed to keep his space travel silent for months, their daughters couldn’t. The girls, aged seven and four, overheard their parents discussing the flight last year and told their teachers, who called to ask if it was true that dad was an astronaut.

“My wife said, ‘No, of course not, you know how these kids make things up.’ But I mean the reality is my kids weren’t that far from that one, ”Isaacman said.



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