The all-private Polaris Dawn crew has been hard at work preparing for its upcoming trek to space. The team recently shared an update of the mission, scheduled for later this year, revealing that the four-member crew has been training since May, indulging in activities like scuba diving and going on high-altitude hikes.
Polaris Dawn is the first of three flights on board a SpaceX rocket purchased by billionaire tech entrepreneur turned space enthusiast Jared Isaacman. The Shift4 Payments CEO was the mission commander of the first all-civilian orbital spaceflight Inspiration4, which took off in September 2021. But Isaacman seemingly could not get enough of that zero gravity life, purchasing three more flights with SpaceX in February as part of the Polaris program.
The first of the three missions is scheduled for launch no earlier than the fourth quarter of 2022, in which the four space tourists will participate in a five-day mission on board a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule. But Polaris Dawn aims to soar higher than any other Dragon spacecraft before it, hoping to reach as high as approximately 870 miles (1,400 kilometers). The crew also seeks to perform the first spacewalk by a commercial crew. That said, the extravehicular activity (EVA) spacesuits required for the spacewalk are still being developed by SpaceX; only intravehicle suits, which are worn inside the spacecraft, are currently available.
Related: Spacesuits, ranked.
But whether you’re going on a space trip for business or leisure, you need to train for the flight. In preparation for the bumpy ride, crew members Isaacman, along with SpaceX employees Sarah Gillis and Anna Menon, as well as retired Air Force pilot Scott Poteet, began training in California nearly two months ago. The four-member team engaged in scuba diving to learn how to communicate nonverbally during a spacewalk, graduating from a pool to off-shore dives on California’s Catalina island. They also went on high-altitude hikes in Ecuador, scaling the country’s second-tallest peak, Cotopaxi, which stands at 19,347 feet (5,897 meters) tall. In the following months, the crew will also take part in spaceflight simulations for the Dragon spacecraft and receive hands-on medical training.
The cost of the three Polaris missions has not been disclosed, but SpaceX reportedly charges $US50 ($69) million per seat for similar trips. Isaacman raised $US240 ($333) million for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital during his first stint to space as part of Inspiration4, and the billionaire plans on raising funds for charity with the Polaris missions as well.