SpaceX Confirms First All-Civilian Space Mission

SpaceX is preparing to send civilians to space. Hours after Elon Musk announced he thinks he'll be able to get humans to Mars by 2026, his space-bound company announced one group of civilians will head into orbit later this year as SpaceX officially kicks off the space tourism industry. Led by Jared Isaacman, a group of four will orbit Earth later this year aboard SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft. Isaacman founded Shift4 Payments and has a net worth of around $2 billion, just in case you were curious how much a trip to space might cost.

While civilians going to space isn't new, they typically ride with NASA-trained astronauts. This mission, however, will have a crew made entirely of civilians that will receive training from SpaceX and its employees.

"When you've got a brand new mode of transportation, you have to have pioneers," Musk said on NBC Nightly News. "Things are expensive at first, and as you're able to increase the launch rate, increase the production rate, refine the technology, it becomes less expensive and accessible to more people."

"It's like when America went to the moon in '69 — it wasn't just a few people, humanity went to the moon," he added. "We all went there with them. And I think it's something similar here."

Though a price tag for the trip wasn't released, Isaacman said he donated $100 million to St. Jude. He's also donating the three other seats aboard Dragon to people that will be "specially selected."

One of the seats is being given to a St. Jude ambassador, another is being given to a member of the public as part of a charity drive this month, and the last seat will be given to an entrepreneur that uses Isaccman's Shift4 Payments platform.

"I appreciate this tremendous responsibility that comes with commanding this mission and I want to use this historic moment to inspire humanity while helping to end childhood cancer here on Earth," Isaacman said in a release.

The multi-day mission will see Isaacman and his crew orbit Earth once every 90 minutes. After launch from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, the shuttle will return to Earth days later and land somewhere off the coast of Florida.

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Though all four crew members of the mission will be civilians, Isaacman himself has plenty of flight experience as he's flown both commercial and military aircraft.

Cover photo by Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images