Happy birthday to Dr. Sian Proctor, the first African-American woman to pilot a spacecraft.
Outside of the mission commander, the all-civilian crew of the Inspiration4 was selected by an unconventional process. Shift4 CEO Jared Isaacman, the mission commander, procured two of the four seats for St. Jude. The Countdown documentary on Netflix shows that one, Hayley Arceneaux, was a bone cancer surviver who was selected from the staff of St. Jude. Chris Sembrowski won a contest that was open to anyone who donated to St. Jude. (Sembrowki’s friend had actually won, but he decided to give away his seat to his Air Force buddy.)
The final spot was a Shark Tank-inspired contest. It would go to someone who would post a short video clip on social media about how the experience would help the spirit of entrepreneurship. Getting likes n your video would factor into the selection process. Proctor posted a video about how she was an artist and a poet, and she would use the experience as inspiration for her works.
As it turns out, Proctor was more than qualified to be an astronaut. She was a scientist, with as masters in Geology and a Ph.D in Science Education. She came from a NASA background; her father was a NASA engineer who worked at Guam’s Remote Ground Terminal during the Apollo missions. She is a licensed pilot. And in 2009, she was one of 47 finalists vying to nine positions in that year’s NASA astronaut group.
As a result, she was pretty much the easiest selection to be the mission’s pilot. The rocket, the Resilience, launched on September 16, 2021. The crew orbited Earth for three days, reaching an altitude of 585 km, making it the fifth highest crewed orbital flight in history.
Dr. Proctor’s code name on the mission was ”Leo”… and honestly I kinda want to be an astronaut just to be assigned a boss code name.