High-flying Valley professor leads way into space on all-civilian flight

Sep 15, 2021, 4:15 AM
(Twitter Photo/@DrSianProctor)...
(Twitter Photo/@DrSianProctor)
(Twitter Photo/@DrSianProctor)

PHOENIX – A community college geoscience professor from metro Phoenix is rocketing into history as one of four civilians going into space without an astronaut Wednesday.

Sian Proctor, who teaches at South Mountain Community College, will pilot a fully automated SpaceX Dragon capsule, launching from Cape Canaveral, Florida, hundreds of miles above the ground. It will be the first time in 60 years of human spaceflight no astronauts are aboard.

“The closer we get, the more exciting it becomes,” Proctor told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Arizona’s Morning News in June.

Launch from the Kennedy Space Center is scheduled for 5:02 p.m. Arizona time and will be live-streamed.

“We go through the same training NASA astronauts do in a short amount of time,” said Proctor, who won her seat on Inspiration4 in a contest organized by trip sponsor and crew member Jared Isaacman, 38.

That includes simulations and training in a hypo-hyperbaric chamber and zero gravity, she said.

The 51-year-old Proctor, a one-time NASA astronaut finalist, bested a field of 200 to earn her spot on the Pennsylvania entrepreneur’s three-day jaunt.

Hayley Arceneaux, 29, a Tennessee health care worker who survived childhood cancer, and Chris Sembroski, 42, a data engineer and former Air Force missileman from the state of Washington, round out the crew.

The mission has sets its sights on reaching an altitude of 357 miles, passing the International Space Station along the way.

In comparison, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos made it briefly to 62 miles above sea level, considered by many to be where outer space begins, while Virgin Galactic’s Richard Branson went 53 miles high.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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High-flying Valley professor leads way into space on all-civilian flight