The world’s first crew of “amateur astronauts” is preparing to blast off on a mission that will carry them into orbit before bringing them back down to Earth at the weekend. From a report: The four civilians, who have spent the past few months on an astronaut training course, are due to launch on SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 8.02pm local time on Wednesday (1.02am UK time on Thursday). Barring any glitches, the two men and two women on the Inspiration4 mission are expected to orbit the planet for three or four days, performing experiments and admiring the view through a glass dome fitted to their Dragon capsule, before splashing down in the Atlantic Ocean.
Touted as “the world’s first all-civilian mission to orbit,” the launch is the latest to promote the virtues of space tourism and follows suborbital flights in July by Sir Richard Branson on Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo — which has since been grounded for going off course — and Jeff Bezos on Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket. While the Inspiration4 crew has had flying lessons, centrifuge sessions to experience the G-forces of launch, and hours of training in SpaceX’s capsule simulator, the mission will be almost entirely automated. The capsule is due to orbit Earth at an altitude of 360 miles (575km), about 93 miles higher than the International Space Station.