The SpaceX landing this weekend that brought the four-person civilian crew of the company’s Inspiration4 flight safely back to Earth was particularly exciting for my hometown of Memphis.
We actually had a couple of reasons to be keenly interested here in the success of this mission. For one thing, the flight — which marked the first time an all-civilian crew went on an orbital mission to space — was meant as a fundraiser for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. The children’s hospital, which does life-changing, breakthrough research and treats young patients for free, operates here from a sprawling complex Downtown. What also made the SpaceX mission such a thrilling moment for Memphians is that one of our own was actually part of the crew. She’s Hayley Arceneaux, a St. Jude physician’s assistant, as well as a former patient herself at the hospital.
Aftermath of SpaceX landing Inspiration4 crew
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk even said that he would kick in $50 million toward the mission’s fundraising goal for St. Jude. “This brings tears to my eyes,” Arceneaux tweeted over the weekend. “Thank you @elonmusk for this generous donation toward our $200 million dollar fundraising goal for @StJude!!!”
Perhaps feeling a little heady from the success of the mission, which culminated in the SpaceX landing that followed the Inspiration4’s three-day orbit of Earth, Musk on Sunday did allow himself a bit of frustration at a lack of praise from the White House.
Someone on Twitter asked the CEO why President Biden wasn’t praising the flight and those involved. And Musk dredged up one of President Trump’s favorite insults of Biden from the 2020 campaign trail. The former president, remember, loved to disparage Biden as “Sleepy Joe.”
He’s still sleeping
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) September 19, 2021
Nevertheless, praise in the wake of the successful SpaceX mission has come from many corners, including Bill Nelson. He’s the former US senator now serving as NASA administrator. “Congratulations, #Inspiration4!” Nelson tweeted. “With today’s splashdown, you’ve helped demonstrate that low-Earth orbit is open for business.”
Musk might not have gotten the praise he wanted, but the Biden era has been good to SpaceX so far. In April, for example, the company scored a nearly $2.9 billion NASA contract that calls for building spacecraft to land astronauts on the moon again.
Meanwhile, the Inspiration4 flight was also noteworthy because of a number of “firsts” that coincided with this mission. Among them, the milestones included the first time a nonprofessional crew has operated as astronauts. It also included the first Black female pilot of a spacecraft and the first person to fly in space with a prosthetic limb (Arceneaux).
A Netflix limited series (Countdown: Inspiration4 Mission to Space) tracks the mission from start to finish.