The New Era of Commercial Human Space Flight Means Little News

The New Era of Commercial Human Space Flight Means Little News

One day after the launch of the first all-commercial human space flight mission there is little to report. As soon as the Inspiration4 crew reached orbit last night, public channels of communication ended. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk tweeted today that all is well, but the public silence from the crew underscores how different this new commercial era is from what has come before.

Throughout the past six decades, NASA has gone to great lengths to keep the public informed of what its astronauts are doing in space other than for the space shuttle missions that conducted classified activities. For the three SpaceX Crew Dragon flights that took astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) for NASA since May 2020, the agency provided continuous coverage from launch to docking. Anyone can watch live video from the ISS on Ustream with internal views when the crew is on duty and Earth views otherwise. Spacewalks and other major events are broadcast on NASA’s own TV channel and app.

Not so with commercial space.

While the Inspiration4 crew — Jared Isaacman, Sian Proctor, Hayley Arceneaux, and Chris Sembroski — sought publicity before the launch in part to raise funds for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, that changed last night. There is no live TV coverage. No tweets from the crew.

The only information about what they are doing is from a few tweets from SpaceX, four of which were posted at the same time (2:00 pm ET) today, one from Inspiration4’s Twitter account, and one from St. Jude.  The crew spoke with patients at St. Jude today, but it was not public.

A new day has dawned in human space flight and commercial means just that. Isaacman is footing the bill and calling the shots. He has a deal with Netflix and Time and we will have to wait to find out how it all went.  That’s not to detract from the mission’s noble cause to raise money for St. Jude or criticize Isaacman’s business practices, it is just that it’s a new paradigm. Perhaps it will add to everyone’s appreciation of NASA’s openness.

Update:  Shortly after this article posted, Inspiration4 tweeted twice more, one with four photos and another promising that “more” will be released about the call with St. Jude.

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