SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk will donate $50 million to benefit childhood cancer research by the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, launching an ambitious fundraiser by the private Inspiration4 space mission beyond its $200 million goal.
Musk made the pledge late Saturday (Sept. 18) after the four private astronauts of the Inspiration4 mission returned safely to Earth with a splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean, just off the Florida coast. The mission was financed by billionaire tech entrepreneur Jared Isaacman, who bought the flight with SpaceX and served as its commander, to raise awareness and support for St. Jude. As of splashdown, the mission had raised about $160 million for the hospital.
"Count me in for $50 million," Musk wrote on Twitter in response to a public from the Inspiration4 mission welcoming the crew home and reminding the public of the fundraiser.
Photos and video: Splashdown! SpaceX Inspiration4 crew returns to Earth
"This brings tears to my eyes," wrote Inspiration4 medical officer Hayley Arceneaux, a St. Jude physicians assistant and survivor of childhood bone cancer, of Musk's donation. "Thank you Elon Musk for this generous donation toward our $200 million dollar fundraising goal for St. Jude!!!"
Isaacman also thanked Musk and reminded the public that the fundraiser is still underway. Isaacman donated $100 million of his own money to the fundraising goal, then donated the three other seats on Inspiration4 to raise awareness for St. Jude. Arceneaux was selected by St. Jude to fill the "Hope" seat on the crew.
SpaceX launched the Inspiration4 mission on Sept. 15, sending Isaacman, Arceneaux and two other civilians — geoscientist Sian Proctor and aerospace data engineer Chris Sembroski — on a three-day trip in Earth orbit. They performed a series of science experiments, played music and spent time gazing out a giant dome window SpaceX added to their Crew Dragon for the mission. Isaacman placed the first sports bet from space (the the Philadelphia Eagles to win the Super Bowl) and the crew spoke with actor Tom Cruise and U2 singer Bono while they were in orbit, among other things.
From Etsy to Earth orbit: Inspiration4 crew packs mementos for space (and sale)
"We loved space but it's great to be home," Isaacman wrote late Saturday on Twitter. "Incredible news on Elon Musk donation and surpassing the 200m goal for St. Jude. Let's keep it going!"
Musk's donation brings the estimated total of the Inspiration4 fundraiser to about $210 million and that's before a planned auction of many items the crew took into space on the mission. That includes a Martin Guitar ukulele played by Sembroski, art and flight jackets, as well as dozens of non-fungible tokens, or NFTs, for artwork and a new song by the Kings of Leon.
St. Jude officials appeared excited to hear of the fundraiser's success. "Two missions accomplished in one night," the hospital wrote on Twitter.
In a later message, it thanked the Inspiration4 crew and SpaceX "for thinking beyond our planet and making things better for all of us here now and in the future."
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Tariq is the Editor-in-Chief of Space.com and joined the team in 2001, first as an intern and staff writer, and later as an editor. He covers human spaceflight, exploration and space science, as well as skywatching and entertainment. He became Space.com's Managing Editor in 2009 and Editor-in-Chief in 2019. Before joining Space.com, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times covering education and city beats in La Habra, Fullerton and Huntington Beach. In October 2022, Tariq received the Harry Kolcum Award for excellence in space reporting from the National Space Club Florida Committee. He is also an Eagle Scout (yes, he has the Space Exploration merit badge) and went to Space Camp four times as a kid and a fifth time as an adult. He has journalism degrees from the University of Southern California and New York University. You can find Tariq at Space.com and as the co-host to the This Week In Space podcast with space historian Rod Pyle on the TWiT network. To see his latest project, you can follow Tariq on Twitter @tariqjmalik.