Billionaire Jared Isaacman has bought an entire SpaceX flight and plans to take three random people with him on the flight to orbit the globe in the fall of 2021. This act allows him to both fulfill his dream of space flight as well as raise $200 million for St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital. Isaacman is donating $100 million of that himself. One person has been selected for the three available seats. She is a healthcare worker for St. Jude. One of the other seats will be given to someone who donates to St. Jude in February. Those people will be entered into a random drawing. The fourth seat will go to a business owner from Allentown, Pennsylvania who uses Isaacman's credit card processing company Shift4 Payments.
Isaacman, 38, told the Associated Press:
"I truly 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 around on the moon with their kid in a spacesuit. I also think if we are going to live in that world, we better conquer childhood cancer along the way."
The billionaire bought a Super Bowl ad to publicize the Inspiration4 mission. The mission is set to launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida in October. The trip will be in the SpaceX Dragon capsule. He plans to announce the winner of the random drawing and the identities of the other two passengers in March. The flight will last two to four days. This will be the first private space travel trip. Elon Musk held a press conference on Monday at SpaceX's California headquarters and said, "This is an important milestone toward enabling access to space for everyone." He also noted that while these initial private space flights are crazy expensive, over time, the price will drop.
Isaacman did not say how much he's paying SpaceX. He did note that the $200 million he's trying to raise for St. Jude "vastly exceeds the cost of this mission." Isaacman will be the spacecraft's commander for the mission and is excited to learn about the Dragon and Falcon 9 rocket. A former astronaut for NASA will accompany the four civilians on the flight.
The four people aboard the Dragon will undergo training at SpaceX before the flight. Isaacman also plans to take his crew on a mountain expedition to live in tents on the side of the mountain during the coldest days of winter. He intends for the four passengers to all get to know each other very well before the launch. Isaacman chose Musk's SpaceX because it is the leader in commercial spaceflight. He's been putting out feelers about private spaceflights for years. In 2008, he went to Kazakhstan to watch a Russian Soyuz take off with a tourist on board. A few years later, he was present at one of the last launches of NASA's space shuttle. In November 2020, SpaceX invited him to the company's second astronaut launch for NASA.
Isaacman has been a self-confessed "space geek" since kindergarten. On his way to becoming a billionaire, he dropped out of high school at 16 and got his GED. He started a business in the basement of his parents' home that became the basic idea for Shift4 Payments. In 2009, while raising money for the Make-A-Wish foundation, he set a speed record flying around the world. He then founded Draken International, which is the world's largest private fleet of fighter jets. Isaacman owns former Russian MIG fighter jets as well as many others.
Isaacman's $100 million donation to Memphis, Tennessee-based St. Jude is the largest ever by a single individual as well as one of the largest overall donations