Eagle Shares Account of SpaceX Mission

Citizen-astronaut inspires students to dream of space

The alumnus who commanded the first civilian spaceflight asked Embry-Riddle students and faculty to go beyond perceived limits. 

“Aim high – this is the time to do it. You never know what might be possible. Certainly, the folks that I’ve been lucky enough to work with over the last year have been aiming pretty high and achieving some pretty incredible things,” entrepreneur and citizen-astronaut Jared Isaacman (’11) told a hangar packed with students and faculty. 

Isaacman is the CEO of Shift4 and founder of Draken International, which provides tactical fighters to defense customers for contract air services. He commanded SpaceX Inspiration4, the first all-civilian spaceflight, and will serve as commander for Polaris Dawn. 

In a far-ranging conversation with College of Aviation Dean Dr. Ken Witcher, aerospace engineering major Alijah McDonald and spaceflight operations major Nikolas Blanks, Isaacman shared his experience of spaceflight and his sense of responsibility to advance technology in a way that improves how we live. 

“It is so important that you’re making as much impact here on Earth as you’re trying to accomplish in space because sentiment can shift,” he said. “This is a very capital-intense environment in commercial spaceflight right now. You lose support, and the brakes go on fast. It is very exciting, but this all comes with big obligations for all the organizations that are participating.” 

Woven throughout his remarks was his sheer wonder at what he experienced on the flight. He described the sounds of the Dragon capsule, the fluidity of time – which accelerated during countdown and seemed to stop during other parts of the mission – the “high-blood-pressure moments” of prolonged G-forces, and the thrill of looking at the moon and thinking, “We have got to get back there. We have got to keep going.” 

The Polaris Dawn mission – which could launch as early as this year – will test the Starlink laser communications system. Isaacman sees the “connection to home” it could provide to space colonists as crucially important. “It just might be essential to maintaining sanity in that environment,” he said. Students in the Space Technologies Lab will contribute to Polaris Dawn by filming civilian spacewalks. 

Isaacman’s Dean’s Hangar Talk on April 15 culminated a weeklong celebration of Aviation Week on the Daytona Beach Campus.