SpaceX announced yesterday that it will launch a new human spaceflight program, the Polaris Program. The project’s first mission will select the crew at an altitude of about 500 kilometers above Earth (the International Space Station is more than 300 kilometers from Earth), where they will open the door of the Crew Dragon cabin and enter space to complete humanity’s first commercial spacewalk.
It is worth noting that Jared Isaacman, an American billionaire who flew around the Earth for three days last September on SpaceX’s first private space mission, has bought another ticket this time, booking tickets for a total of three future missions under the Polaris Program.
As CEO of Shift4, co-founder of Draken International, former commander of Inspiration4, and an experienced pilot and commercial astronaut licensed to fly various aircrafts, he will also serve as the mission commander.
The mission is expected to last up to five days, and the Dragon Spacecraft aboard [ unclear, superfluous?] will take the highest trajectory over Earth in history. In 1966, the Gemini 11 mission from NASA set a new record of 1,368 kilometers. The “civilian astronauts” who will perform the spacewalk will wear SpaceX’s own EVA spacesuits, which is an upgrade to the current cabin suits. The program also will conduct studies of health effects in parts of the Van Allen radiation belt, including space sickness, the effects of space radiation on the human body, and spaceflight-induced neuro-ocular syndrome (SANS).
The crew will also test Starlink laser communications for the first time in space to provide valuable data for future space communications systems.
Let’s have a closer look at the other three crew members:
Scott Poteet is a retired U.S. Air Force lieutenant colonel and formerly served as Inspiration4’s mission director. Anna Menon and Sarah Gillis are both Lead Space Operations Engineers at SpaceX and Mission Specialists. Menon will also serve as Polaris Dawn’s medical officer. She led the development of crew operations at SpaceX and has more than a decade of experience in space operations, where she previously supported the ISS as a flight controller. Gillis served as crew correspondent for previous Dragon missions and provided real-time operations support for Dragon cargo resupply missions to and from the International Space Station and was responsible for overseeing SpaceX’s astronaut training program.