The four private space travelers who soared into orbit on SpaceX's historic Inspiration4 mission last month officially have their astronaut wings.
The civilian crew, which rode a SpaceX Dragon spacecraft into orbit on Sept. 15 and returned to Earth three days later, received their astronaut wings from the company on Friday (Oct. 1) in a presentation at SpaceX's headquarters in Hawthorne, California.
"Yesterday we were presented with our SpaceX astronaut wings," Inspiration4 astronaut Hayley Arceneaux, the mission's medical officer, wrote in a Twitter post Saturday. "This beautiful symbol of our journey means everything to me! Also if it looks like I'm crying, mind your business."
Yesterday we were presented with our SpaceX astronaut wings. This beautiful symbol of our journey means everything to me! Also if it looks like I’m crying, mind your business 😉😉 pic.twitter.com/3TqMQ91okKOctober 2, 2021
Arceneaux wasn't alone in her jubilation.
"I cried when I got my wings!" Sian Proctor, a geoscientist and space communicator who served as the Inspiration4 crew's pilot on the mission, wrote on Twitter.
SpaceX's astronaut wings pin has a Crew Dragon capsule at its center from which emerge a dragon's head and wings. The back is inscribed with each crewmember's name, call sign and mission role. The wings are provided by the company itself and are different from the commercial astronaut wings provided by the Federal Aviation Administration. The private suborbital spaceflight companies Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic also have their own astronaut wings that also differ from the FAA's pins.
In July, the FAA changed its qualifications for commercial astronaut wings to require crewmembers to demonstrate "activities during flight that were essential to public safety, or contributed to human space flight safety" in addition to their flight training and flight above 50 miles (80 kilometers). FAA officials have said that the agency does reserve the right to issue honorary commercial astronaut wings "to individuals who demonstrated extraordinary contribution or beneficial service to the commercial human spaceflight industry."
Inspiration4 was a three-day commercial space mission financed by American entrepreneur and billionaire Jared Isaacman, who bought four seats to orbit on a SpaceX Dragon and Falcon 9 rocket. Isaacman donated three of the seats to raise funds and awareness for childhood cancer research by St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.
Arceneaux, a St. Jude physician assistant and childhood bone cancer survivor, represented the hospital on the flight. Proctor and another civilian, aerospace data engineer Chris Sembroski, won their seats as part of public contests. They were the first all-civilian crew to fly in space without a professional astronaut, and Proctor became the first Black female spaceship pilot in history on the flight.
During their flight, the Inspiration4 astronauts spent three days circling the Earth, performing science experiments and gazing out the largest single window ever built for space, a dome-shaped cupola that SpaceX attached to the nose of the Dragon capsule for the mission. Their mission is the subject of a Netflix documentary series and raised over $200 million for St. Jude.
"Until we meet again, thank you to all the amazing people at @SpaceX who have done so much for me and @inspiration4x," Sembroski, Inspiration4's mission specialist, wrote on Twitter. "And most of all, thanks to my beautiful wife Erin who gave so much to support this dream on a most incredible journey."
According to SpaceX and the Inspiration4 teams, the private astronauts were invited to the company's headquarters Friday to share the experiences from their spaceflight. The astronaut wings presentation was apparently a surprise.
"Our Inspiration4 crew visited SpaceX's headquarters in Hawthorne, California yesterday, and was surprised with SpaceX Dragon wings," Inspiration4's outreach team wrote on Twitter.
Isaacman, who has not disclosed how much be paid for the Inspiration4 flight, thanked SpaceX on Saturday for the flight.
"It was great to see all our SpaceX friends and thank them for making this mission a success," Isaacman added on Twitter. "Incredible memories.
Editor's note: This story, originally posted on Oct. 3, was updated Oct. 4 to include details about the astronaut wings presented by Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin and the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration.