Four aspiring private astronauts blasted off from Nasa’s Kennedy Space Centre on Thursday for an orbital space flight on board a SpaceX rocket.
The crew of Inspiration4, the first mission to space to be staffed entirely by civilians, went through rigorous training to prepare them for the voyage around the Earth, which will last several days.
Thanks to the mission’s financial backer, billionaire entrepreneur Jared Isaacman, they went much higher, faster and further than either Richard Branson or Jeff Bezos, each of whom flew into space this summer on rockets built by their companies as they ushered in a new era of space tourism.
But a common thread that runs between all the pioneering projects like Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin and now Inspiration4, is the idea that space is for everyone.
Though it took off from the Kennedy Space Centre’s launch pad 39A – the same launch pad that Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins blasted off from before landing on the Moon more than 50 years ago – the Inspiration4 mission is intended to show that space travel is no longer the exclusive domain of rival superpowers and the titans of the aerospace industry.
Inspiration4’s crew starred in an all-access Netflix documentary series that aired in the build up to the launch.
One slogan that featured heavily in adverts for the series was: “If they can go, we can all go.”
So who are they, and how did they end up with a seat, and how can Mr Isaacman afford the most ambitious space tourism adventure yet?
The mission’s leader and the person paying for the trip is Jared Isaacman.
A billionaire entrepreneur and high-school dropout, Mr Isaacman founded US payment processing company Shift4 Payments when he was only 16.
Now 38, Mr Isaacman has an estimated net worth of $2.5 billion.
While no price has been revealed for the mission, a single launch of one of SpaceX’s reusable Falcon 9 rockets is believed to cost around $50 million – well within the reach of Mr Isaacman, who also splashed out on Superbowl adverts for the mission.
As well as being an entrepreneur, Mr Isaacman is a keen pilot and adventurer.
In 2012, he set up a company called Draken International that trains pilots for the military and operates one of the world’s largest fleets of privately owned fighter jets.
Mr Isaacman himself is qualified to fly several types of jet fighter, including the fearsome Russian-built Mig-29, a high-performance, twin-engined jet capable of flying at nearly 2,500kph.
In 2009, Mr Isaacman broke the world record for circumnavigating the globe in a light jet, flying around Earth in less than 62 hours.
The world record flight was a fundraising event for the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
Like his fellow billionaires Mr Bezos and Mr Branson, Mr Isaacman has been captivated by space from a young age and wants to help make space flight accessible to everyone.
“I decided I was going to go to space when I was 5,” he told US broadcaster CNBC in February.
Inspiration4, he said, “is the first step towards a world where everybody can go and venture among the stars”.
The crew of Inspiration4 is meant to reflect the ideals of the mission: leadership, hope, generosity and prosperity.
The "hope" seat went to Hayley Arceneaux, a doctor’s assistant from Louisiana.
Ms Arceneaux, who survived bone cancer as a child, became the first person to go into space with a prosthesis.
She now works at the same hospital where she was treated as a child, St Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee.
Mr Isaacman is using Inspiration4 to raise $200m for the hospital.
At 29, Ms Arceneaux also became the youngest American to travel to space.
Like Mr Isaacman, Ms Arceneaux has long dreamt of space flight. She told AFP she was inspired by a visit to Nasa’s Johnson Space Centre in Houston, Texas, while on a family holiday.
“I got to see where the astronauts trained and of course wanted to be an astronaut after that – who doesn’t?
"I got a phone call pretty much out of the blue in early January, and it was from St Jude ... they basically said, 'Do you want to go to space?'
"Immediately I said, 'Yes, yes, absolutely!'
"Being the youngest American to go to space is such an honour but honestly, what I'm more excited about is being the first paediatric cancer survivor to go to space.”
US Air Force veteran Chris Semborski will represent “generosity”.
As a student, he volunteered with a lobbying group that promoted legislation to help open up space travel and allow the commercial side of the industry to flourish.
During his time in the military, Mr Semborski, 41, helped maintain America’s Minuteman III nuclear missiles and deployed to Iraq.
He left the military in 2007 and now works for Lockheed Martin, the aerospace industry company.
Recalling the moment he told his wife he would be blasting into space on board a SpaceX rocket, he told Time magazine: “‘Sweetheart, I think we’re going to go ride a rocket.’
“Then she got really quiet, and I knew we had more to discuss.”
Born on the pacific island of Guam, where her father worked at the Nasa tracking station during the Apollo missions, Sian Proctor has been a geoscience professor for more than two decades.
The 51 year-old, who is also an explorer, was twice selected as a Nasa astronaut candidate – only narrowly missing out on the chance to go to space with the US space agency.
She was selected for the "Prosperity" seat, given to the winner of a competition for entrepreneurs.
Though, like the rest of the crew, she had never been to space, Ms Proctor had perhaps come the closest.
She is a so-called analogue astronaut who has completed several simulated space missions on Earth, including the all-female Sensoria Mars 2020 mission at a research facility in Hawaii.
Based on her experiences of simulated space exploration, Ms Proctor published the Meals for Mars cookbook.
The recipe book used ingredients from a “space pantry” – including shelf-stable items such as freeze-dried fruit, meat and vegetables that would be suitable for space travel.