3, 2, 1… Civilian space crew, including Everett-based ‘space nerd,’ ready to make history
The first ever all-civilian crew is set to launch into orbit tomorrow night for a three-day mission. One of the lucky passengers is a man from Everett. To learn more about this historic mission, KUOW’s Kim Malcolm spoke to Alan Boyle, contributing editor at GeekWire.
This interview has been edited for clarity.
Kim Malcolm: The rocket and spacecraft are owned by SpaceX, the private company owned by billionaire Elon Musk. How did this flight come together?
Alan Boyle: It all started with another billionaire named Jared Isaacman, who has always been interested in aviation. He was interested in investing with SpaceX. When he asked the people at SpaceX about that, they said "If you're interested in flying into space, we can sell you a flight." He decided to purchase a flight, and then turn it into a fundraiser for St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital.
And he's not going up alone. Who is he going up with?
Instead of taking some of his buddies from college, he established a couple of competitions and also selected someone from St. Jude's hospital to go with them, a cancer survivor who is a physician assistant at St. Jude's right now. She is going to be the youngest American to go into space at the age of 29. The other two people are an educator from Arizona and an engineer from Everett, Washington.
Tell us more about the man from Everett and how he got this ticket.
His name is Chris Sembroski. One of his friends won a sweepstakes. For whatever reason — we don't know why —this person nominated Chris to go instead. Chris is a space nerd. He's been to space camp. He's an amateur astronomer and a data engineer at Lockheed Martin working out of Everett.
When they're up there, is there work they're going to have to do?
Well, there's a lot of work that went into getting ready for this flight. It is spaceflight. You really have to do some things to make sure that the spacecraft is on track. You have to be ready in case the computer has a problem.
During the flight itself, they're going to be doing scientific studies, and of course, they're going to be spending a lot of time looking out the window, taking in the view.
Where do you think the space tourism industry could be going?
The flights that Jeff Bezos and another billionaire Richard Branson took are suborbital in nature. It's basically an up and down ride. This is an orbital flight that goes higher than any spacecraft has gone with people inside since the Apollo era. This is another level.
The fact that these are ordinary people is a very significant thing for space tourism and for citizen spaceflight. A lot of people see this as a major step toward having spaceflight become more affordable for regular people, and not just for billionaires.
Listen to the interview by clicking the play button above.