Wannabe-astronauts beg billionaire for spare seat on first civilian space mission

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Jamie Johnson
·4 min read
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Jared Isaacman, founder and CEO of payments technology company Shift4 Payments is offering three seats on a SpaceX Crew Dragon rocket - PATRICK T. FALLON /AFP
Jared Isaacman, founder and CEO of payments technology company Shift4 Payments is offering three seats on a SpaceX Crew Dragon rocket - PATRICK T. FALLON /AFP

Budding American astronauts have been asked to make Dragon’s Den style pitches to a billionaire tech mogul in order to win a place on the first ever civilian space mission.

Jared Isaacman, founder and CEO of payments technology company Shift4 Payments is offering three seats on a SpaceX Crew Dragon rocket to people who show entrepreneurial flair, generosity and hope.

The venture is supporting efforts to raise $200 million for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital to fight childhood cancer, with half the sum already donated by Mr Isaacman.

An accomplished jet pilot, he will be the commander on the mission, making it the first ever all-civilian trip to space.

One seat has already been given to a hospital worker from St Jude’s and another will be given to someone who donates to the research hospital via an online portal.

The third winner will be decided in a Dragon's Den-style contest run by Shift4 Payments in which users have to design their own website on the platform.

NASAs SpaceX Crew-1 mission was the first crew rotation mission of the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket to the International Space Station  - AFP
NASAs SpaceX Crew-1 mission was the first crew rotation mission of the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket to the International Space Station - AFP

Once the winners have been decided at midnight on Sunday, they will be fitted for uniforms and undergo training, with a plan to launch sometime within the last three months of the year.

One person who has applied for a seat on the spaceship is Emily Calandrelli, a scientist and television host with her own show on Netflix called Emily’s Wonder Lab.

She wants to make the first TikTok video from space and has donated $10,000 to the charity.

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Mr Isaacman started his company in 1999 from the basement of his family’s house when he was only 16-years-old and has built it into a New York Stock Exchange registered firm with over 1,200 employees.

Now worth around $2.5 billion Mr Isaacman is also licensed to fly commercial and military aircraft and holds several world records including two Speed-Around-The-World flights.

In 2011, the billionaire co-founded what would become the world’s largest private air force, Draken International, to train pilots for the United States Armed Forces.

Inspiration4 mission commander Jared Isaacman, founder and chief executive officer of Shift4 Payments, stands for a portrait in front of the recovered first stage of a Falcon 9 rocket  - PATRICK T. FALLON /AFP
Inspiration4 mission commander Jared Isaacman, founder and chief executive officer of Shift4 Payments, stands for a portrait in front of the recovered first stage of a Falcon 9 rocket - PATRICK T. FALLON /AFP

Mr Isaacman has already committed $100 million to St. Jude’s and took out a $5.5 million 30-second advert during the Superbowl last month.

Then he had to pay for the four seats. While he has not disclosed how much he has paid, NASA hands over $55 million for each astronaut who makes the trip to space aboard a SpaceX capsule.

Flying with Mr Isaacman is 29-year-old Hayley Arceneaux, who will become the first bone cancer survivor to be an astronaut, the first person with a prosthetic body part to visit space and the youngest American ever to orbit Earth.

As a child, she was treated by doctors at St Jude for osteosarcoma, having chemotherapy and a limb-saving surgery. She now works at the research hospital as a PA with leukemia and lymphoma patients.

“When I was just 10 years old, St. Jude gave me the opportunity to grow up. Now I am fulfilling my dreams of working at the research hospital and traveling around the world,” she said.

“It’s incredible to be a part of this mission that is not only raising crucial funds for the lifesaving work of St. Jude but also introducing new supporters to the mission and showing cancer survivors that anything is possible.”