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Polaris Dawn Mission
Announced in February 2022, the Polaris Dawn mission is a private human spaceflight mission, to be housed in SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft. The mission will be conducted under the newly formed Polaris Program. Polaris Dawn will be launched on SpaceX’s Falcon 9b5 rocket from NASA Kennedy Space Center from the Launch Complex 39A . The flight will raise donations and awareness for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital and other charitable causes. Polaris Dawn is the first of three human spaceflight missions that will demonstrate new technologies and conduct microgravity research. The mission is scheduled to launch no earlier than December 2023.
The crew will consist of Jared Isaacman, Scott Poteet; and SpaceX employees, Sarah Gillis, and Anna Menon, who will spend up to five days in orbit. Jared Isaacman is funding much of the Polaris mission privately.
The Polaris Dawn mission plan is to fly the Crew Dragon into an elliptical orbit round the Earth. Crew Dragon is slated to reach the highest Earth orbit ever flown. The current record is held by Gemini 11 astronauts, Charles Conrad and Richard Gordon, who reached an orbit of 853 miles above Earth in September 1966.
Polaris Dawn will also be carrying out a technology demonstration by communicating with ground controllers on Earth using the Starlink Satellite system that SpaceX has been launching since 2019. By using laser communications through the Starlink network, the Polaris Dawn crew should be able to provide more high-quality livestreams during the mission.
Studying Earth's Van Allen Belts
During this mission, the Crew Dragon will be orbiting through portions of the Van Allen Radiation Belts. The Van Allen belts surround the Earth with a zone of energetic charged particles that originate from the solar wind. The charged particles are captured by Earth's magnetosphere. Earth has two belts that extend from an altitude of ~400 to 36,040 miles (~640 to 58,000 km )above the surface. In the belts, the radiation levels vary. Most of the particles that form the belts are thought to come from solar wind and the other particles by cosmic rays. By trapping these particles, Earth's magnetic field protects the atmosphere, allowing life on Earth to flourish. Polaris Dawn will conduct research on the Van Allen Belts and study the effects of spaceflight and space radiation on human health.
The Polaris program can be viewed as a follow on mission to Inspiration 4, the first SpaceX civilian mission. Jared Isaacman is funding a large part of the mission. Isaacman is working to open up space for everyone, making humankind a mult-planetary species, and bring back benefits for humans on Earth. The Inspiration 4 mission garnered $263 million for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.
Spacesuits and Spacewalks
During the flight the Polaris Dawn crew will be studying the spacesuits that SpaceX is developing for space missions on their Starship spacecraft. The Polaris Dawn mission will include the first citizen spacewalk or extravehicular activity (EVA) Because they also plan the first citizen spacewalk, the suits will have to be very carefully tested for their ability to protect humans from the harsh environment in space. Since the Crew Dragon spacecraft has no airlock that will require the entire capsule be depressurized during the spacewalk. The crew members will float out of the hatch and remain tethered to the spaceship at an altitude of ~300 miles, or 500km above Earth's surface. Two persons will make the walk while the other two remain in the spacecraft.
- - find out more about SpaceX at Astra's Stargate
Polaris Mission - 2
The second mission will help to determine how to make the Starship Crew cabin efficient and comfortable for the third Polaris mission that will be the first crewed flight of SpaceX’s Starship with humans on board.
Polaris Dawn - 3
The third mission will be the first crewed test of the SpaceX Starship. This means that Starship will be ready to ferry humans to space. Before this mission can happen, the spacecraft will have to be human-rated. On to the Moon and Mars!
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The Translational Research Institute for Space Health (TRISH) is part of a NASA/academia consortium led by Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, TX. Baylor's Center for Space Medicine has a website for the Polaris Dawn Mission.
The Polaris Program has other partners in microgravity research that can be found on their website. The research is designed to advance human health on Earth and improve human health during long space missions. Some of the areas of microgravity research to be carried out by the Polaris Dawn Mission include monitoring astronauts for signs of decompression sickness, studying how the radiation environment in space affects human biological systems, and research into Spaceflight Associated Neuro-Ocular Syndrome (SANS), that causes damage to the eyes due to long-duration spaceflight.
- - Go to the Polaris Program web site.