A New Breed of Astronauts to Take Flight

In October, tech billionaire Jared Isaacson will step aboard his chartered Space X Dragon capsule as a mission commander and lead a tourist expedition into space. A new age is dawning in space exploration.

Isaacson is CEO of a company that processes credit card purchases, Shift4Payments, and is paying an undisclosed amount for the honor of being the first space tourist, though not the first private civilian. Two congressman went in the 80’s, but on a NASA spacecraft with experienced supervision.

Former NASA astronaut and space shuttle mission specialist Clayton Anderson things space missions should have chaperones. “Are we talking about always sending tourists with chaperone types or are we talking about sending ten tourists by themselves?” he asks, because that could be a recipe for disaster. Anderson recounts his experience as an aquanaut with the underwater NEEMO 5 mission when an accident necessitated a supervisor step in to provide medical attention.

Isaacson chartered the flight in October for four, and is selecting his companions. One is a health care worker at St. Jude Children’s Hospital and cancer survivor; another seat is being randomly raffled to people who donate to St. Jude’s; and a third will be the winner of an in-house competition being offered within his company. They will undergo some training, but is it enough?

Anderson supports space tourism. “I think it’s great idea, but what happens if one of these groups of tourists who paid all this money go up and we have a disaster. That possibly can shatter the market,” he suggests. Elon Musk says he’s not offering insurance to space tourists, but can understand why someone else might.

photo: Getty Images

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