Roanoke man celebrates his dad’s 86th birthday by witnessing first all-civilian SpaceX launch

The father-son duo used to build model rockets together

Four private citizens are set to launch into orbit Wednesday in what will be the first mission to space without any professional astronauts on board.

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – Four private citizens are set to launch into orbit Wednesday in what will be the first mission to space without any professional astronauts on board.

The all-civilian crew will ride to space aboard a rocket and capsule developed by SpaceX. The mission, dubbed Inspiration4, is just the latest milestone flight in what has been a busy year for private spaceflight companies, following joyrides to suborbital space by billionaire entrepreneurs Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos over the summer.

Two men from Roanoke will be standing by in awe.

“I’m probably going to be hollering and hooping and jumping up and down a whole lot. Trying to hold the camera real steady,” stated George Clements.

To celebrate his dad, Leroy Clement’s 86th birthday, they traveled to the Kennedy Space Center to witness history.

“I had always wanted to visit and had never made the trip,” said Clements. “I had model rockets when I was a kid. My dad helped me build them and launch them.”

The Crew Dragon capsule will spend three days circling Earth before re-entering the atmosphere and splashing down in the Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of Florida, according to SpaceX.

The expedition is part of a charity initiative to raise money for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. In addition to giving $100 million to St. Jude, Jared Isaacman, one of the crew members, donated the three other seats on the Inspiration4 flight to his crew members.

The crew members have been undergoing intense spaceflight training since March, including in simulators and on zero-G flights that offer short periods of microgravity.

While there they will collect data on how space impacts the average person’s heart activity, sleep, and blood - as well as changes in behavior and cognitive performance.

The spacecraft is scheduled to launch Wednesday atop a reusable Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida. The five-hour launch window opens at 8:02 p.m. EDT, and SpaceX is planning to broadcast the event live.

Forecasts currently project a 70% chance of favorable weather conditions for the evening launch.


About the Author:

McKinley Strother joined the WSLS 10 News team in June 2020. He anchors 10 News at 6 and 11 on Saturdays and Sundays and you'll also catch him reporting during the week.