SpaceX’s first all-civilian human spaceflight mission, which will carry four passengers to orbit using a Crew Dragon capsule later this year if all goes to plan, will include one passenger selected by a panel of judges weighing the submissions of entrepreneurs. The panel will include Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, Fast Company Editor-in-Chief Stephanie Mehta, YouTuber Mark Rober and Bar Rescue TV host Jon Taffer. It may seem like an eclectic bunch, but there is some reason to the madness.
This seat is one of four on the ride — the first belongs to contest and mission sponsor Jared Isaacman, the founder of Shift4 Payments and a billionaire who has opted to spend a not insignificant chunk of money funding the flight. The second, Isaacman revealed earlier this week, will go to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital employee and cancer survivor Hayley Arceneaux.
That leaves two more seats, and they’re being decided by two separate contests. One is open to anyone who is a U.S. citizen and who makes a donation to St. Jude via the ongoing charitable contribution drive. The other will be decided by this panel of judges, and will be chosen from a pool of applicants who have built stores on Shift4’s Shift4Shop e-commerce platform.
That’s right: This absurdly expensive and pioneering mission to space is also a growth marketing campaign for Isaacman’s Shopify competitor. But to be fair, the store of the winning entrant doesn’t have to be new — existing customers can also apply and are eligible.
The stated criteria for deciding the winner is “a business owner or entrepreneur that exhibits ingenuity, innovation and determination,” so in other words it could be just about anybody. I’m extremely curious to see who Benioff, Mehta, Rober (also a former NASA JPL engineer in addition to a YouTuber) and Taffer come up with between them as a winner.
The Inspiration4 mission is currently set to fly in the fourth quarter of 2021, and mission specifics, including total duration and target orbit, are yet to be determined.