After being part of the first civilian crew in space on board of a SpaceX spaceship, the billionaire Jared Isaacman is making headlines for being the first man about to travel to space more than any human within the past 50 years while kickstarting a new era for private spaceflight.
The flight, dubbed “Polaris”, after the North Star, is scheduled to depart later this year in a voyage of five days, counting a crew of four, including Isaacman.
“The [Polaris] program will consist of up to three human spaceflight missions that will demonstrate new technologies, conduct extensive research, and ultimately culminate in the first flight of SpaceX’s Starship with humans on board,” the program said in a statement.
We’re going to go further into space than humans have gone since we last walked on the moon.Jared Isaacman on the Today programme
So far, the SpaceX’s Crew Dragon has only carried astronauts on flights to low Earth orbit, or the area of space immediately surrounding Earth. Mission Inspiration 4 marks the Crew Dragon’s tallest flight to date, at nearly 360 miles. However, SpaceX’s latest announcement indicated that Polaris’ first mission will fly at least twice as far.
2. Probing radiation
This time around, the space journey is expected to travel to the Van Allen radiation belt, which has an inner range extending from about 400 to 6000 miles above Earth and will help the crew to better understand and study how radiation in space affects the human body.
According to SpaceX, radiation remains a major challenge for spaceflights to the Moon and Mars because it requires prolonged exposure to radiation, which could lead to an “increased risk of cancer and degenerative diseases” and other long-term effects.
3. First details
During a press briefing, Isaacman shared few details about the upcoming space mission. Despite not being specific about the altitude of the flight, Isaacman said the Gemini missions of the 20th century, which set altitude records at the time, are evidence of just how high the first Polaris mission will be. The Gemini missions have reached an altitude of about 850 miles — three times higher than where the International Space Station orbits.
This is a contribution from myself and SpaceX towards the important goals we want to achieve with the Polaris program.Jared Isaacman
Isaacman also said that the crew will conduct a spacewalk — the first private spacewalk — and the first for anyone traveling aboard a SpaceX Dragon capsule.
Details about the spacewalk the Polaris crew plans to perform on the first flight are scarce, but a press release states that they will use a SpaceX-designed Extravehicular Spacesuit (EVA), which is an upgrade from the current in-vehicle (IVA) suit. The IVA suit refers to the black and white compressed spacesuits worn by NASA astronauts and the Inspiration 4 crew aboard the Dragon during launch and return.
The space march will take place when the Crew Dragon flies 300 miles above Earth, or roughly the same height as the International Space Station.
“Costs will come down just as with any other groundbreaking technology,” said Isaacman when asked about the costs of these missions. “This is a contribution from myself and SpaceX towards the important goals we want to achieve with the Polaris program.”
SpaceX’s Elon Musk is confident that the Polaris program will be a stepping stone of his longstanding goal of settling humans in Mars.