This is why it is so important for a rich man to go into space for the second time

Zoom in / Polaris Dawn crew from left to right: Anna Menon, Scott Poteet, Jared Isaacman, and Sarah Gillies.

John Krause/Polaris Program

Over the weekend, the crew of the upcoming Polaris Dawn mission shared a slew of details about the intriguing special mission that will send humans farther than they have traveled from Earth in half a century.

The mission, led and funded by private astronaut Jared Isaacman, seeks to test new technologies that will further humanity’s expansion into space. Among the goals are to boost the performance of the Dragon spacecraft and the Falcon 9 rocket, conduct the first commercial spacewalk in a new spacesuit developed by SpaceX, and test Starlink laser-based communications in space.

“Our first goal is to travel further than Earth and the last time humans walked on the moon with Apollo 17, over 50 years ago,” Isaacman said during an online chat hosted by the social networking site X. The apogee is 1,400 kilometers, so that puts us inside the Van Allen radiation belt, so it’s a great opportunity for us to get some data, but really it’s about pushing beyond our comfort zone.

The Polaris Dawn mission does not have a launch date, but SpaceX officials have confirmed that it is now the next crewed mission the company will fly. There are likely to be many scheduling issues, but the mission could be launched within the next six to eight weeks.

Flying at high distances

After liftoff from Florida, Isaacman said Dragon will complete seven orbits with a maximum altitude of about 1,400 kilometers, which is twice the altitude achieved by any crewed mission since 1972. After that, the vehicle will descend to a more circular orbit of about 700 kilometers. How much and getting ready for a spacewalk.

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Besides Isaacman, who flew into space for the first time in September 2021 as commander of the civilian Inspiration 4 spacecraft, the crew for this mission includes a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel and experienced pilot named Scott Poteet, and two SpaceX engineers, Sarah. Gillies and Anna Menon. This will be the first time any SpaceX employee has traveled to space.

After settling into lower orbit, the crew will prepare for a spacewalk. They will wear spacesuits, and the atmosphere inside the Dragon spacecraft will be vented into space. Isaacman and Gillis would then exit the spacecraft, with their suits attached to the Dragon’s air and other consumables by an umbilical cord.

Polaris Dawn astronaut and SpaceX engineer Sarah Gillies show off their new spacesuit.
Zoom in / Polaris Dawn astronaut and SpaceX engineer Sarah Gillies show off their new spacesuit.

SpaceX

Although government astronauts have performed hundreds of spacewalks over the past 60 years, no private citizen has ever undertaken the task.

“This is important because we’re going to get to the Moon and Mars one day, and we’re going to have to get out of our rovers, out from the safety of habitat to explore and build and repair things,” Isaacman said. SpaceX has already said it is working on a second generation of the suit for operations on the Moon and Mars.

The company spent about two years designing the first generation EVA spacesuit, an upgrade from the current flight suit. It has been extensively tested in vacuum chambers and other facilities at sites such as NASA’s Johnson Space Center. Isaacman shared more details about the suits in a Later conversation With former Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield.

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SpaceX has also modified Dragon for spacewalks. A structure called a “Skywalker” was attached to the spacecraft near the hatch as a mobility aid, said Stu Kish, vice president of Dragon at SpaceX.

Is this guy legit?

It would be easy to dismiss Isaacman as a space enthusiast living out his spaceflight dreams after striking it rich. (According to Forbes(Shift4 Payments founder is worth an estimated $1.5 billion.) Sure, he loves flying. He owns and regularly flies a MiG-29 – one of the few Soviet combat aircraft in operation in the United States. Spaceflight is the final frontier for people who love flying.

But Isaacman seems to be more interested in this than just excitement. On his first two spaceflights, Isaacman sought out and succeeded in seeking crewmates from diverse backgrounds Charitable donations A key component of every mission. I’ve had a number of conversations with Isaacman over the past five years, and he has consistently emphasized the goal of opening spaceflight to more people. For example, if humans are to have a truly sustainable presence in space, spacewalks should be commonplace. Then astronauts outside NASA need to start making them. Its funding for Polaris Dawn helped SpaceX focus on developing suits for this purpose in the future.

During the social media event on Saturday, I asked Isaacman about the risks involved in this mission. By flying at a higher altitude than conventional spaceflight, ventilating the cabin, and performing spacewalks, he and the crew were facing a new set of dangers.

“We felt really comfortable going from point A to point B to an extraordinary floating international laboratory, but I think humanity’s ambitions go beyond that,” Isaacman said of the International Space Station. “We’re going to encounter different things. The risk is different when you’re venting the vehicle into a vacuum, and you’re wearing a spacesuit. But I think these are all positive steps in the direction of goodness toward humanity, you know. Interest in exploring our solar system and beyond.”

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Clearly, Isaacman approved of the idea of ​​space settlement. He takes a personal risk to help realize this vision, investing a significant portion of money and time into training. It is a brave, bold and important thing to do.

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