The all-private Polaris Dawn mission publicly shared its support for Ukraine as the nation continues to endure attacks from Russia.
The crewed Polaris Dawn, led by Inspiration4 founder and tech billionaire Jared Isaacman, will fly a Ukrainian flag to Earth orbit, mission team members announced Monday (March 7). Polaris Dawn will be the debut mission of the Polaris Program, which so far includes three flights on SpaceX vehicles.
"We stand with Ukraine and its brave citizens and all those fighting for freedom across the world. The Polaris Dawn crew will take this flag to a place in space that still remains beyond the reach of tyranny," program officials wrote in a Twitter statement.
Ukraine was invaded by Russia on Feb. 24, 2022. The U.S. government as well as international allies responded with wide-ranging sanctions on Russia. The political fallout from this war has also made it way into space. Numerous space partnerships have frayed following the unprovoked invasion and attacks, although NASA maintains that the International Space Station program, which includes both NASA and Russia's space agency Roscosmos along with other partners, is still proceeding as usual.
Isaacman, who made his fortune as the founder and CEO of payment processing company Shift4, will command the Polaris Dawn mission to Earth orbit. The mission includes three other crewmembers, who are highly experienced in aviation and spaceflight operations as well: Scott Poteet, Sarah Gillis and Anna Menon.
Polaris Dawn will fly aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule, with mission goals including completing the first-ever commercial spacewalk, testing Starlink laser-based communications in space and performing science experiments.
Isaacman then plans to fly aboard several more missions as part of the Polaris Program, which aims both to fly human spaceflight missions and to fund charitable causes on Earth. His previous venture, Inspiration4, saw four civilians fly in space for several days in September 2021 while raising hundreds of millions of dollars for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, a cause that the Polaris Program will also support.
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Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for Space.com for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: https://qoto.org/@howellspace