KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. — A SpaceX rocket lifted off on Wednesday night from a launchpad here, carrying four Americans on an adventure to orbit the Earth for three days that will be like no other.
None of the crew works for NASA. The mission, known as Inspiration4, is the first orbital trip where not one of the people aboard is a professional astronaut and where government is, by and large, a bystander and observer.
The evening sky was nearly devoid of clouds when the nine engines of the Falcon 9 rocket ignited, lifting the rocket and its passengers to space.
Jared Isaacman, a 38-year-old billionaire and founder of Shift4, a payments processing service, financed the trip. As the mission’s commander, he thanked those who made it possible, and said that it had brought him and the crew, to the “door step of an exciting and unexplored frontier.”
Mr. Isaacman’s public profile is far less prominent than that of Richard Branson or Jeff Bezos, two billionaires who flew to the edge of space in July in vehicles operated by companies they own. Those trips lasted just minutes before returning to the ground.
But Mr. Isaacman’s three-day adventure is perhaps more noteworthy, a step toward a future where space travel might be like airline travel today — accessible by almost everyone.
That is because Mr. Isaacman decided not to just bring along his friends on this trip to space. Instead, he opened opportunities to three people he did not know.
“We set out from the start to deliver a very inspiring message,” Mr. Isaacman said during a news conference on Tuesday, “and chose to do that through an interesting crew selection process.”
The result is a mission that carries a crew that is more representative of wider society — Hayley Arceneaux, a 29-year-old physician assistant at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis; Sian Proctor, a 51-year-old community college professor who would be the first Black woman to pilot a spacecraft; and Christopher Sembroski, a 42-year-old data engineer.
Mr. Isaacman has declined to say how much he is paying for this orbital trip, only that it was less than the $200 million that he hopes to raise for St. Jude with an accompanying fund-raising drive, one of the stated purposes of the trip.