The first “all-civilian” mission to space is set to blast off on a SpaceX rocket in mid-September, and the process of getting those astronauts trained and (eventually) into orbit will be documented in a new five-part Netflix series called Countdown: Inspiration4 Mission To Space.
Announced Tuesday, Countdown is being billed by Netflix as the first documentary series from the streaming company to cover an event in “near real-time.” Netflix says the first two episodes will arrive on September 6th, followed by two more on September 13th. The company says SpaceX is targeting September 15th for the launch, and if that schedule holds, the fifth episode — a “feature-length finale” — will premiere by the end of the month. The documentary is being co-produced by Time Studios and will be directed by Jason Hehir, who created the Michael Jordan series The Last Dance.
A StoryBots Space Adventure, a “hybrid live-action animation special for kids and families,” is also in the works and will air September 14th. The show will explain the basics of the mission, how rockets work, and how people eat and sleep in space.
Elon Musk’s space company revealed the civilian mission in February, which will see the crew live in the Dragon spacecraft for up to five days in orbit around the Earth. The CEO said at the time that he considers it an “important milestone towards enabling access to space for everyone.” It’s being commanded by Jared Isaacman, the CEO of Shift4 Payments, who is also using the mission to raise $200 million for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. (Isaacman donated the first $100 million to St. Jude when the mission was announced and is trying to raise $100 million more.)
SpaceX has since announced the three other civilians who will join Isaacman on the trip: geosciences professor (and two-time NASA astronaut candidate) Sian Proctor, who will be the “mission pilot”; Hayley Arceneaux, a physician assistant at St. Jude and pediatric cancer survivor, who will become the first person in space with a prosthetic body part; and US Air Force veteran (and Lockheed Martin engineer) Chris Sembroski.
As long as everything goes as planned, the Inspiration4 launch will be the realization of a longtime goal for Musk and SpaceX. The company has booked at least four other private missions on its Crew Dragon capsule and one on its massive Starship rocket, which — once fully developed — will fly around the Moon and back. Inspiration4 will wind up being the second space tourism launch of the year, though. Jeff Bezos joined three others on the first human mission on Blue Origin’s New Shepherd rocket / capsule combination in July. And Virgin Galactic is getting close to flying its first paying customers as soon as next year — the company’s billionaire founder Richard Branson rode to the edge of space with three other company employees in July to test the company’s SpaceShipTwo cabin experience.
Neither of those missions went into orbit, though, which requires far more speed and precision to achieve. SpaceX has already sent government astronauts to orbit (and then to the International Space Station) three times.