The Inspiration4 flight showed space tourism’s potential and limitations.

When NASA owned and operated its own spacecraft, there was no chance it would rent out a Saturn 5 rocket or a space shuttle to someone else. But during the Obama administration, NASA decided to hire private companies to take its astronauts to the space station. One of the program’s secondary goals was to spur more commercial use of low-Earth orbit.

A decade later, SpaceX can offer trips to people who are not NASA astronauts, like the crew of Inspiration4.

“I’m very bullish on the tourism market and the tourism activity,” Phil McAlister, NASA’s director of commercial spaceflight development, said during a news conference in May. “I think more people that are going to fly, they’re going to want to do more things in space.”

The trip shows that a private citizen, at least someone with a couple hundred million dollars and a few months to spare, is now able to essentially rent a spacecraft to circle the planet.

In this case, it was Jared Isaacman, founder of Shift4 Payments, a company that processes payments for restaurants and other businesses. In deciding to spend a sizable slice of his fortune, Mr. Isaacman did not want to just bring along some friends. Instead, he opened opportunities to three people he did not know.

The result is a mission with a crew that is more representative of wider society — Hayley Arceneaux, a 29-year-old physician assistant at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital; Sian Proctor, a 51-year-old Black community college professor; and, Christopher Sembroski, a 42-year-old data engineer.

With his crew of everypersons, Mr. Isaacman has achieved a goal of science fiction authors and space enthusiasts: to open space to everyone, not just professional astronauts and wealthy space tourists.

“The difference with this flight is that we have three very ordinary people who are basically on the flight, and they’re going to show us what it means to open this up,” said Timiebi Aganaba, a professor of space and society at Arizona State University.

A trip like Inspiration4 is still affordable to only to the richest of the rich. But it is no longer impossible.

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