The road to space runs through … Mount Rainier?
Shift4 Payments CEO Jared Isaacman, who’s paying for a trip to orbit as a fundraiser for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, thinks a three-day expedition on Washington state’s highest mountain with his future crewmates is a good way to prepare for three days of being cooped up in a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule.
Over the weekend, Isaacman and the three other members of the Inspiration4 Dragon crew — Lockheed Martin engineer Christopher Sembroski, Arizona geoscientist Sian Proctor and St. Jude physician assistant Hayley Arceneaux — were part of a team that took on the miles-long trek to Camp Muir, a way station at the mountain’s 10,080-foot elevation.
Isaacman and a subset of the team went even higher and reached the 14,411-foot-tall mountain’s summit during this trip — a stretch goal that the billionaire businessman missed out on during a preparatory climb earlier this month.
Amazing time w/ @inspiration4x team on Mt. Rainier this weekend. All objectives complete. I am so impressed. Thanks @RMIExpeditions & @EViesturs for the tough & rewarding experience. pic.twitter.com/nnuEpjhVnc
— Jared Isaacman (@rookisaacman) May 4, 2021
The crew’s Seattle sojourn wasn’t entirely glitch-free: “Kind of funny, overnight at hotel, someone stole the catalytic converters from all our rental cars,” Isaacman tweeted. “Our convoy driving to the mountain was making some noise. We should have had EV’s.” (Coincidentally, The Seattle Times had a story about the region’s rash of catalytic converter thefts just a few days ago.)
Preparations for the Inspiration4 flight seem to be going more smoothly. If all goes according to plan, the foursome will climb into the same Crew Dragon spaceship that brought four astronauts back from the International Space Station over the weekend. SpaceX will refurbish the craft, christened Resilience, for a mission that’s set for liftoff as early as September.
Unlike Resilience’s previous crew, the Inspiration4 spacefliers won’t be going to the space station. Instead, Isaacman will serve as the commander of a free-flying mission that could provide further insights into the effects of spaceflight on non-professionals — and provide great pictures for the crew and folks watching at home. Resilience will be fitted with a giant cupola window to maximize the view.
Isaacman, who’s a trained jet pilot, hopes the project will raise $200 million for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Contributions are still being taken via St. Jude’s website, and you can bet there’ll be opportunities during and after the flight for the Inspiration4 crew to highlight the work being done at the hospital.
Arceneaux, a cancer survivor, told CBS News that the crew plans to call patients from space. “They’re going to see that somebody who was in their shoes, who also fought childhood cancer, can go to space,” she said. “And I think it’s really going to show them what they’re capable of.”
Sembroski, who lives in Everett, Wash., is looking forward to gaining a perspective from space that’s likely to be even broader than the view from Mount Rainier.
“I really hope that once I’m up there … I am able to experience what it’s like to look back down at Earth and see our beautiful blue ball sitting there, with no lines, no walls,” he said a little more than a month ago when his selection for the crew was announced. Sembroski said sharing the experience could help others “realize what incredible opportunities we have if we just continue to show kindness to one another, and reach out and be generous with our talents.”