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Watching the first all-private commercial manned orbital spaceflight

Liberty and freedom enlightening the world
Liberty and freedom enlightening not only the world,
but the entire solar system.

Bumped: I will be out on a cave trip for most of today, September 15, 2021, so I’ve moved this post to the top of the page, as it clearly will be the most important space news today. I should be back before launch, but if not, enjoy!

Original post:
Capitalism in space: Let’s begin by underlining one fundamental fact about the Inspiration4 manned Dragon orbital space mission, targeted for a September 15th launch tomorrow evening, that makes it different from every other orbital space mission ever flown since Yuri Gagarin completed the first manned mission in 1961:

The government has nothing to do with it.

The launch facilities, the rocket, the capsule, the drone ship where the rocket’s first stage will land, and the entire recovery operation in the ocean are all controlled and owned by SpaceX. The passengers are private citizens, one of whom purchased the flight directly from SpaceX.

It is was organized by 38-year-old billionaire and entrepreneur Jared Isaacman, who is also a highly-capable jet warbird aircraft pilot. When he found out from SpaceX he could be the first to fly an all-commercial mission in Crew Dragon, he fronted $100 million to $200 million required and partnered with St Jude Children’s Research Hospital in a campaign to give away two of the missions seats and raise $200 Million for children’s cancer research.

Every person you will see in mission control, at the launchpad, and on the recovery ships are also private citizens, working for a private company that just happens to be in the business of flying rockets, spaceships, and humans into space. None are government employees, and I would suspect that most don’t want to be.

Not only is this mission privately run, its goals are completely different. While all past space launches were flown for purposes decided by the government, this mission’s goals have been determined by the free participants themselves. SpaceX is making money on the flight, Isaacman and his passengers are getting the chance to fulfill their long-held personal dream of going into space, and Isaacman is also using this flight to raise money for cancer research, a personal passion of his.

The flight itself will be unusual. It will be the first manned mission in more than a decade, since the last shuttle repair mission to the Hubble Space Telescope, to not go to an orbiting space station. Instead, the capsule will spend three days free-flying in orbit around the Earth. To enhance the flight for the passengers, SpaceX removed the docking port on Resilience (the capsule) and replaced it with a viewing port with large windows.

The orbit itself will in a sense push the envelope, as SpaceX plans to loft the capsule to an altitude of about 370 miles, considerably higher than ISS’s orbit of about 260 miles and about 35 miles higher than the mission to Hubble. In fact, the Inspiration4 crew will be the farthest from the Earth’s surface than any human in decades, possibly going back as far as the Apollo era.

For watching this flight I have embedded SpaceX’s live stream below, which you can also find here. You will also be able to find that stream at SpaceX’s YouTube page, where the company is also airing preflight videos.

This mission illustrates the fundamentals that built the United States of America. Give humans freedom, don’t try to tell them what to do, and they will do astonishing and magnificent things, on their own.


Conscious Choice cover

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From the press release: In this ground-breaking new history of early America, historian Robert Zimmerman not only exposes the lie behind The New York Times 1619 Project that falsely claims slavery is central to the history of the United States, he also provides profound lessons about the nature of human societies, lessons important for Americans today as well as for all future settlers on Mars and elsewhere in space.

Conscious Choice: The origins of slavery in America and why it matters today and for our future in outer space, is a riveting page-turning story that documents how slavery slowly became pervasive in the southern British colonies of North America, colonies founded by a people and culture that not only did not allow slavery but in every way were hostile to the practice.  
Conscious Choice does more however. In telling the tragic history of the Virginia colony and the rise of slavery there, Zimmerman lays out the proper path for creating healthy societies in places like the Moon and Mars.


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All editions are available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and all book vendors, with the ebook priced at $5.99 before discount. The ebook can also be purchased direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit, in which case you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.


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  • Col Beausabre

    “Liberty and freedom enlightening not only the world, but the entire solar system.”

    Grognards will remember the Eighties game, Freedom In the Galaxy

    Nothing to do with free enterprise space exploration and obviously inspired by Star Wars, it’s still a great title and slogan

    “They can’t kill all of us!”

  • “They can’t kill all of us!”

    Hm. It seems that was the refrain often expressed by naive Jews in Germany and the Nazi-occupied territories before and during World War II.

  • Doubting Thomas

    For people’s information there is an interesting series on NETFLIX which in 4, 45 minute episodes takes you through the initial discovery by Issacman that he could be the first SPACEX private customer and how he combine his excitement for the opportunity and his long term interest and philanthropy for cancer research into this mission.

    Next episode goes into the selection of his 3 crew members. Then the last 2 episodes concentrates on each of the 3 and the training program that SpaceX and Issacman built to increase the probability of success for the private mission. Not a 4 episode technical presentation, much more human interest.

    I came away with admiration for Issacman’s drive and determination, a better understanding (& interest in their back stories) of the other 3 individuals flying and admiration for the set of SpaceX employees charged with the training and preparation and their faith that this flight will trigger a new era of space flight and exploration.

    Last episode took you up to last week and the crew arrival at Kennedy for quarantine and final prep.

    For Netflix haters, I stipulate their Big Tech problems and bigotry but the show is interesting. I don’t have Netflix so I snuck over to my son’s house and watched for 4 hours on his TV

  • Ray Van Dune

    Series appears to be titled “Countdown: Inspiration 4 Mission to Space”.

  • Doubting Thomas

    Ray – Thanks – I think I left out that good piece of information, Thanks for that great info

  • Jeff Wright

    As I see it, this mission is the true winner of the X-prize of nearly two decades ago…not the Komet dropped from a funky learjet.

  • Col Beausabre

    the Komet dropped from a funky learjet.

    As in the Me-163?

    “Over 300 Komets were built, but the aircraft proved lackluster in its dedicated role as an interceptor and destroyed between 9 and 18 Allied aircraft against 10 losses. Aside from combat losses, many pilots were killed during testing and training, at least in part due to the highly volatile and corrosive nature of the rocket propellant used in later models of the aircraft. This includes one pilot by the name of Oberleutnant Josef Pöhs, who was dissolved by the rocket fuel following an incident that resulted in a ruptured fuel line”

  • George C

    Bob, until you popped this to the top I had passed over it as yet another SpaceX launch, there are so many. Now I have something to look forward to watching.

  • James Street

    Short answer: Yes, but a Porta Potty is a palace in comparison. SpaceX is tight lipped about its Dragon bathroom but in this 4 minute video the guy determines from still pictures it’s probably a tube for #1, a plastic bag in a hole for #2, with a curtain to hide behind.

    Does the SpaceX Crew Dragon have a toilet?

  • BLSinSC

    Amazing that PRIVATE industry has outdone our GOVERNMENT yet again – so what’s so amazing!! I truly appreciate the $200 MILLION that was raised for St. Jude Hospital! Cancer is such an insidious disease and doesn’t care who or when it strikes. Little children should never have to experience that kind of pain and suffering. St. Jude has been a miracle in our Nation and this was just awesome! I hope and pray that everything goes smoothly and safely!

  • Chris Lopes


    The fund raising campaign was brilliant. I was one of the people who joyously made a donation for an incredibly slim chance of winning a seat on this mission and no chance of passing the physical. It gave me a chance to donate to a great cause while kinda sorta living a childhood dream. The odds of winning weren’t much greater than zero, but that hope was enough to sell me on the idea.

  • Richard M

    “The launch facilities, the rocket, the capsule, the drone ship where the rocket’s first stage will land, and the entire recovery operation in the ocean are all controlled and owned by SpaceX.”

    Quietly putting on my Pedantic Man cap to whisper that technically, SLC-39A is owned by NASA. SpaceX just has a 20 year lease to use it exclusively and modify it to suit its needs.

    But I get what you’re saying here, Bob. :)

  • Doubting Thomas

    Watching the coverage on SpaceX YouTube Channel. Still trying to reach their goal of $100m to St Judes. Hope on the channel and, if you can, hit the link and donate to the St Jude Hospital and the worthwhile mission it performs!

  • Richard M

    Scott Manley today ( pointed out something else striking about this mission: The bubble window which has been installed in the docking adapter of this Dragon – which should provide some spectacular views of Earth – took SpaceX less than six months to go from conception to completion. All testing included. It is the largest single piece window yet to be put into orbit.

    Contrast with the ISS’s Cupola, which took 23 years (!) from its original conception in 1987 to installation on ISS in 2010. Designed by Boeing and McDonnell Douglas, it was ultimately built in Italy by Alenia Spazio; total manufacturing time took . . . almost 15 years (1989-2003).

    Granted, the Cupola is a more complex piece of hardware; granted, the technology was not as advanced in the 80’s and 90’s as it is in the 2020’s; granted, that SpaceX has been able to learn from some those experiences. But nonetheless, this illustrates just how fast SpaceX moves. It’s agile and efficient, because it has to be: its business model does not rely on waiting around for cost-plus government contracts and studies.

  • Star Bird

    Remember we Fullfilled JFK’s word of landing Man on the Moon before the decade was out its just we waited few minutes frim Midnight(July 20th 1969)to do it

  • Gary

    For anyone so inclined, Inspiration 4 will be visible from North America Thursday evening. You can plug in your location on this site to get exact times for any location around the world.

  • Ron

    Don’t know if this will work but some friends of our took some pictures of it from off the coast of NC just north of Wilmington.


  • Ron

    Guess I can’t load a picture…

  • Gary


    If you want to establish an account “free” with either Dropbox or Imgur, they allow you to create a link for photos that you can share on web sites. I’ve used both and they seem to be safe.

  • wayne

    thanks for that link.

    it’s still on your phone.

  • Jeff Wright

    In some respects…this was closer to Soviet manned firsts than you might imagine.
    Forget for a moment which pocket the funding came from-private vs. public. Gagarin was also along for the ride for the most part. Engineers ran the show-and Musk is the new Korolev.

    Then the Wolfe in Blue Suit clothing arrived…and pilot culture killed Apollo-and gave us Challenger, Columbia–and Branson.

    The real shift here is a re-definition of The Right Stuff.

    ISS inhabitants have every moment pre-planned…where this crew has wonder as its agenda…and no, that is not a waste. By letting people enjoy microgravity without was of thinking about space can be had…no fighter jock culture. Inspiration cannot be hurried…and Darwin on a plane would have no time to work. Space-like the sea-opens the imagination…and a submariner-not a pilot-should command the fist Starship to Mars.
    The economics of such a project interests me not a jot.

    That’s not the real paradigm shift at work here. Culture, not costs, should be our focus. For example, the X-I5 flights of Uncle Sam were of greater import than this years private sub-orbital jaunts.
    Who pays for space?
    I don’t care-as long as it IS funded.

  • Chris Lopes

    ” I don’t care-as long as it IS funded.”

    The source of the funding dictates the nature of the mission. If the source is governmental, the mission will have to be justified (usually by science) to get access to public funding. If it’s money from private sources, the only justification is whatever the people funding it care about.

    On a test flight for one of his rockets, Musk included a Tesla car with a dummy astronaut as test cargo. Such an act done by NASA would have had the administrator explaining himself to congress. Private funded flights can afford to be frivolous.

  • Col Beausabre


  • Jeff Wright

    Now I don’t mean to denegrate pilots mind you-before Billy Mitchell…their voices were unheard before the passing of the torch. In fact….the LV stack here actually reminds me a bit of some olympic torch designs.

    Richard M- you are quite right to point out the pad being NASA’s. Gov’t infrastructure is often beneath libertarian’ notice. If you are a civil engineer, both libertarians and Greens always say ‘no’ to your budget requests before driving home on public roads…not even seeing them. That cupola is a WW II pillbox to Dragon’ fish-eye lens.

    Getting back to pilots-there was a Senate hearing where-just after one poor soul finished lamenting NASA’s low budget with China just launching its first taikonauts-John McCain turned to some CATO institute type…who piped up with how we didn’t need to respond to one socialist program “with another socialist program.”

    Had I been there I would have come close to punching him out cold for the lie of comparing patriots in NASA with chi-coms…and McCain said that was a good point. No it wasn’t, Mr. Z. McCain just wanted to starve NASA so he could use tax dollars for his fighter mafia brethren. He was shot down by a rocket after all-so maybe that SAM went farther up his tailpipe than we thought and scarred his colon.

    He like Proxmire did space advocates the very great favor of ‘assuming room temperature’ as Rush put it, though he did push the importance of airport infrastructure when NIMBY types pushed libertarians against him for a change-and that pro-infrastructure stance was the only useful thing he ever did.

    This happened years ago…when Musk faltered a bit. Had he failed-and had libertarians prevailed in turning Huntsville into a ghost town as Mr. Z seems bent on doing-what would our launch record be now?
    What if Elon has a stroke tomorrow? When it comes to Space old an new-the correct answer is both/and not either/or…or McCains neither/nor.
    Today’s mission is a great example of a public-private partnership.

  • Jeff Wright: If your comment does not appear immediately, please don’t keep sending it out repeatedly. It won’t make any difference. This comment was dumped into moderation (at no fault of your own) and required my approval. I have done so.

  • Jeff Wright

    Forgive mine impatience…

  • wayne

    Not an apologist for Libertarianism, Inc. but I am an apologist for small ‘l’ libertarianism.

    Who’s Allowed In?
    Dave Smith and Nick Sarwark discuss the future of the Libertarian Party. (2019)

  • Jeff Wright wrote, “The economics of such a project interests me not a jot.”

    These words should be put on the gravestone of the United States, as they in one sentence illustrate exactly why our free, prosperous, and innovative country is dying. Too many people like Jeff Wright are incredibly ignorant about the principles and morality that are the foundation of American exceptionalism, and worse, don’t have any interest in educating themselves.

  • Richard M

    Hello Jeffrey:

    Richard M- you are quite right to point out the pad being NASA’s. Gov’t infrastructure is often beneath libertarian’ notice. If you are a civil engineer, both libertarians and Greens always say ‘no’ to your budget requests before driving home on public roads…not even seeing them. That cupola is a WW II pillbox to Dragon’ fish-eye lens.

    1. It’s a paradox: NASA has been absolutely indispensable in SpaceX’s survival, let alone its success; on the other hand, NASA by itself can no longer deliver successful exploration – at least not in *human* spaceflight.

    2. The ISS cupola is a case in point. As we agree, the cupola *was* a more complex and difficult piece of hardware (though one wonders now if NASA unncessarily made it so) than the Dragon bubble; but I think we also can agree that there is simply no way NASA as presently constituted could have taken the bubble (which is a more complex structure than it looks) from conception to deployment in six months, either. They’d have to obtain the funding…do their own internal study…put out an RFP…let it out for contract…run it through their own testing and oversight procedures, erect their own staff to operate it. It would take *years*. And a lot more money! Politics, and Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy, have taken over NASA. It’s just the way it is.

    It was not always so. There was a time when NASA put out the contract for the lunar roving vehicles in October 1969 and Boeing delivered its first flight rover in February 1971, just 15 months later, on deadline and on budget. And it worked. But as Charles Murray notes, the bureaucracy hadn’t taken over yet. It was going to happen at some point, though.

    I do think NASA *can* be a valuable component of space exploration – and exploitation – but it really does have to keep reorienting how it does what it does to the customer model it has pursued with COTS, CRS, Commercial Crew, CLPS, and now the HLS. The SLS and Orion represent the dead end model that no longer works – and is no longer affordable.

  • Edward

    Richard M wrote: “It’s a paradox: NASA has been absolutely indispensable in SpaceX’s survival, let alone its success; on the other hand, NASA by itself can no longer deliver successful exploration – at least not in *human* spaceflight.

    NASA’s indispensability is a result of government being the monopoly in space for the past half century. Government and NASA had a lock on space access. This is why steely eyed missile man Robert Truax was unsuccessful in finding investors in the early 1980s to start a commercial rocket company. This meant that they had virtually all the knowledge of the technology, so the new commercial companies have to rely upon NASA for this knowledge, as it is stored away in NASA’s files and NASA’s employees.

    Jeff Wright wrote: “Who pays for space? I don’t care-as long as it IS funded.

    There is far more capital available outside of NASA [for use by commercial space marketplace] than there is inside of NASA.’ — paraphrased from an interview with NASA Administrator Bridenstine on the Ben Shapiro radio show on Monday 3 August 2020.

    When government was virtually the only funding source for space, almost everything we got was what government would fund. Now that investors are willing to fund space, we are getting a large amount of innovation that we didn’t get with half a century of government space-funding. All this innovation may be coming from less annual investment by private investment than NASA gets annually. Private investment has proved to be more efficient and more effective than government funding, and no one can complain that it is taking away government money for the war on poverty (or whatever may be someone’s favorite project).

    It does matter who pays for space.

    Chris Lopes and Robert Zimmerman are right. It is the freedom to choose what innovation to work on that matters most. We can choose to innovate in areas that increase our ability to add to the economy, meaning supplying goods and services that others are willing or eager to buy. Government has proved that it is not concerned with the economics of space, either in the cost of their projects or the usefulness of space for creating goods and services.

    The SpaceX space tourists are not just tourists. They have planned their own experiments on items that they think are important for future manned spaceflight. These experiments were not weeded out by some government committee that thinks other experiments are more important, they were freely chosen by our new astronauts, who are even now working in space.

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