Talk about entering a lottery that’s truly out of this world: One lucky space tourist aboard the history-making all-civilian launch of the SpaceX Crew Dragon later this year will pretty much be a randomly-chosen member of the public. The only stipulation? Just make a small donation to the charity that the flight supports, and almost anyone — and yes, that probably means you — can be eligible to win a raffle that’ll have you strapping into the same Crew Dragon module that ferries NASA astronauts to the ISS.
Two of the four seats available on the milestone “Inspiration4” SpaceX mission are up for grabs to anyone who gets involved in crew leader Jared Isaacman’s mission-related promotional program. By far the more straightforward of the two is the raffle: “For as little as $10” donated to St. Jude, the raffle’s fundraising page teases, you can enter a random drawing for your chance to snag a seat aboard the Crew Dragon, as well as “[g]ood feels knowing you helped St. Jude in their mission to ensure no child is denied treatment based on race, religion or a family's ability to pay.”
Full instructions on how to enter the raffle can be found here, but it’s not the only way to secure a spot on the Crew Dragon’s human cargo manifest. Budding online entrepreneurs can also enter a more limited competition for one of the four seats, thanks to a cross-promotion that helps boost the Isaacman-founded Shift4Shop eCommerce platform.
Entry details can be found at the company's landing page, but the steps are pretty simple: Launch an online store using Shift4Shop’s eCommerce backbone, post “a short video on Twitter about your entrepreneurial story” — including a link to your storefront and the #inspiration4contest hashtag — and then, as the contest website says, “Go to space!” The winner of the Shift4Shop competition will be selected by a “panel of celebrity judges” who pick “the most inspiring entrepreneur to join this historic adventure” based on the “top-trending videos,” with the winner to be announced sometime in March.
If all this seems like a strange, spacey new hybridization of private business, private nonprofit, and even the public sector (the mission will launch from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida), well — it is. In many ways, crewing a multi-day space mission with only novice space tourists aboard signifies just how far things have come in the new U.S. space race, which makes partners of NASA and private-sector businesses like SpaceX and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin.
Isaacman, along with a yet-to-be-chosen “St. Jude ambassador,” will fill two of the four mission seats — and depending on who else makes the cut, he may end up being the most aeronautically-qualified crew member on board.
An entrepreneur with pilot training in both military and commercial flight, Isaacman donated $100 million to St. Jude to kickstart the project, but of course he doesn’t have the space training that Crew Dragon pilots like Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley, who became the first NASA astronauts to take the capsule into space, have spent years accumulating. Instead, all four of the selected space tourists “will receive formal training from SpaceX, including emergency simulations,” according to The Atlantic.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves, aren’t we? If you want to head to space, the first step is to get on the Inspiration4 mission sheet. And by following one of the two paths above, your odds of making it there are probably way better than what you’d find from your garden-variety Powerball lottery. You have your task list and you know what’s required…so may the best (or at least the luckiest) space tourist win!