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SpaceX’s Inspiration4 mission is an inflection point for the orbital economy

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Things are looking up. Go beyond the astronaut experience and the philanthropy, and what does SpaceX’s ability to hurl four private citizens into space really add up to?

Our last big space tourism moment, featuring Jeff Bezos and Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket, prompted a backlash . It was difficult to connect that rollercoaster ride to the edge of space with Bezos’ broader (and admittedly controversial) vision. Inspiration4 might be a better candidate to demonstrate how space tourism connects to a space economy that’s more than luxury adventure.

And not because it’s particularly inspiring. While the trip is cool as hell, it’s not clear that “become super-wealthy” or “win a publicity contest” requires inspiration. Winning a golden ticket to Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory is fun, but it’s not what makes you a role model.

What makes this crew remarkable has everything to do with their lives before their trip to space. Jared Isaacman, a guy who founded a billion-dollar company as a 16 year-old? Haley Arcenaux, a childhood cancer survivor who returned to the hospital as a physician’s assistant to care for ill youngsters? Sian Proctor, a Black woman with a doctorate and a career as a science communicator? Even the most […]

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