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A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches people to orbit. Photo: SpaceX

A geoscientist and a former Space Camp counselor will round out the crew of the first all-civilian mission to space launching later this year.

Why it matters: The mission is one of the first true tests of the future space companies like SpaceX hope to build — one in which anyone has the chance to fly to space, even without government backing.

What's happening: Scientist and community college professor Sian Proctor and Air Force veteran Chris Sembroski have both been chosen to fly aboard SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft as part of the Inspiration4 mission.

  • Proctor and Sembroski will join billionaire businessman Jared Isaacman and childhood cancer survivor and physician assistant Hayley Arceneaux on the flight.
  • The full crew is now embarking on months of technical training and crew bonding experiences — like alpine camping on Mount Rainier — ahead of the launch.

Details: Proctor — who was a finalist to become a NASA astronaut in 2009 — won her seat after entering a contest set up by Isaacman and his company Shift4 Payments designed to reward an entrepreneur for their ambition and help support St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.

  • "I feel so fortunate to have gotten the golden ticket and that I am going to space and representing the fact that it's never too late. Hard work and perseverance has led me to this moment," Proctor told Axios.
  • Sembroski's seat was originally awarded via raffle to someone else who was unable to accept the ticket but recommended Sembroski, who also happened to enter the raffle, instead.
  • "I am still figuring out how in the world to thank him for this generous gift," Sembroski told Axios.

The intrigue: Inspiration4 was initially expected to launch no earlier than Oct. 15, but due to scheduling, the mission has been moved up to no earlier than Sept. 15.

  • The mission itself will be about three days, taking the crew to an orbit higher than the International Space Station, according to Isaacman.
  • "It's likely we'll be above [the] Hubble [Space Telescope] and we think that's symbolic, too," Isaacman told Axios.
  • "Not only have humans not gone that high in more than a decade, but it's like a stepping stone towards the direction that we all know is coming next, which is the return to the Moon and to Mars and beyond going past where we've been comfortable for the last 20 years or so."

Go deeper

Toyota to build $1.3 billion U.S. battery plant in North Carolina

The all-electric Toyota bZ4X, the company's first battery-electric vehicle, at the Los Angeles Auto Show in Los Angeles, California on Nov. 17. Photo: Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images

Toyota announced Monday it's investing $1.3 billion to construct an electric vehicle battery "megasite" near Greensboro, North Carolina, set to open in 2025.

Why it matters: Toyota's Prius hybrid won environmental plaudits when it launched in 1997, but it has since lost ground to electric vehicle world leader Tesla, per Axios' Joann Muller. This battery plant will be the first to produce automotive batteries for Toyota in North America.

3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Congress hunts for shortcut to pass defense funding, debt limit combo

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer returned to his office Monday. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

The scramble in Congress to pass the National Defense Authorization Act is being complicated by an effort to tie it to a needed hike in the federal debt limit.

Why it matters: The House and Senate are rapidly coming up against a series of deadlines they must address before the end of the year — or risk disrupting crucial military funding and upending the economy. Congressional leaders are now hoping they can knock out both "must-pass" priorities in one, complex swoop.

Scoop: Inside Jake Sullivan's call with U.S. hostages' families

Photo: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA/Bloomberg via Getty Images

National security adviser Jake Sullivan spoke last week with relatives of U.S. hostages and others wrongfully detained abroad, after more than two dozen families expressed frustrations about their inability to get a meeting with him or President Biden, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: Participants on the video call, which began at 7pm ET Friday and lasted more than an hour, told Axios they didn't get satisfactory answers to many of their questions. Nonetheless, they were encouraged by Sullivan's commitment to follow up and pledge to be personally available to them and others going forward.

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