Four private citizens launch today, further opening new era of spaceflight

Crew Dragon and its Falcon 9 rocket are ready to go for the Inspiration4 mission.

Enlarge / Crew Dragon and its Falcon 9 rocket are ready to go for the Inspiration4 mission. (credit: SpaceX)

There has been a minor kerfuffle in the space community over the last few weeks about what to call the Inspiration4 mission that is set to launch this evening from Florida on SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket.

Entrepreneur Jared Isaacman, who paid for and will lead the three-day mission, preferred that it be deemed the “world’s first all-civilian spaceflight to orbit.” But that’s not actually accurate. According to Harvard University’s Jonathan McDowell, there have previously been 15 all-civilian orbital flights, beginning with the Soyuz TMA-3 mission in 2003. The most recent civilian flight was SpaceX’s Crew-2 mission. The definition of “civilian” is “a person not in the armed services.”

Technically, then, Inspiration4 is the first orbital spaceflight with an “all private” crew—people who are neither in the military nor professional astronauts for a civil space agency. But regardless of semantics, this mission is different.

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