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SpaceX's private Inspiration4 crew gets their astronaut wings

The four private astronauts of Inspiration4 received their SpaceX astronaut wings at the company's Hawthorne, California headquarters on Oct. 1, 2021. They are: (from left) Chris Sembroski, Sian Proctor, Jared Isaacman and Hayley Arceneaux.
The four private astronauts of Inspiration4 received their SpaceX astronaut wings at the company's Hawthorne, California headquarters on Oct. 1, 2021. They are: (from left) Chris Sembroski, Sian Proctor, Jared Isaacman and Hayley Arceneaux. (Image credit: Inspiration4)

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." 

Photos: SpaceX's Inspiration4 mission in pictures

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I cried when I got my wings!"

—Inspiration4 pilot Sian Proctor

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."

A close-up view of SpaceX's astronaut wings for the private Inspiration4 astronauts. (Image credit: Inspiration4)

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."

SpaceX Inspiration4 pilot Sian Proctor (right) hugs a SpaceX employee as she receives her astronaut wings on Oct. 1, 2021 at the company's California headquarters.  (Image credit: Inspiration4)

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.

Email Tariq Malik at tmalik@space.com or follow him @tariqjmalik. Follow us @SpacedotcomFacebook and Instagram

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Tariq Malik

Tariq is the Editor-in-Chief of Space.com and joined the team in 2001 as a staff writer, and later editor, covering human spaceflight, exploration and space science. 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. 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. To see his latest project, you can follow Tariq on Twitter.