How Arizona plays key roles in SpaceX's historical Inspiration4 launch

Arizona has several impactful and key contributions to SpaceX's historic Inspiration4 launch from Florida on Wednesday night, including a Phoenix area professor on board as one of four astronauts heading to space.

The launch of Inspiration4 is a big moment for Dr. Frederic Zenhausern and his team at the University of Arizona.

"That is an experience that’s really amazing and I think it’s once in a lifetime," he said.

For the first time, the team's molecular diagnostics technology will be used to monitor crew members’ stress, inflammation, and immune levels during the spaceflight with a blood droplet from a fingerstick or saliva sample.

"That would be really the first time that an astronaut will be pricking their finger with a small lancet that is usually used for measuring glucose and then they will use that small blood and load it into a device and try to measure inflammation and immunity response," Zenhausern explained.

Blood samples are measured before, during, and after the flight.

"It’s very likely that we’ll see after the launch and staying three days in space, I’m sure we’ll be seeing some changes in their profile," he said.

This system will help researchers study the molecular and physiological levels in the human body under extreme zero-gravity conditions. 

Zenhausern hopes the data will offer valuable information for future flights.

"It’s really a first step for us to bring your technology to space and we’ve already learned so much. It’s not easy to bring something into a spacecraft. We have a lot of validation of the technology, satisfaction and make sure it satisfies the environment of space," Zenhausern said.

During their 3-day journey in orbit, the Inspiration4 crew "will conduct scientific research designed to advance human health on Earth and during future long-duration spaceflights," SpaceX said. 

Inspiration4, which will last for approximately three days, is targeting an altitude of about 360 miles, the farthest for any human since the Hubble Space Telescope repair missions. The crew will orbit Earth every 90 minutes along a customized flight path that will be carefully monitored by the aerospace company's mission control. Upon conclusion of the mission, Dragon will reenter Earth's atmosphere for a splashdown off the coast of Florida.

Phoenix area professor is on board the rocket

A professor at South Mountain Community College is heading to space.

Born in Guam, Dr. Sian Proctor is a geoscientist, explorer, and science communication specialist with a lifelong passion for space exploration. Her father worked for the NASA tracking station during the Apollo missions. She’s an analog astronaut (a person who conducts activities in simulated space conditions) and has completed four analog missions.

Her motto is "Space2inspire," and she encourages people to use their unique one-of-a-kind strengths and passion to inspire others. She has her pilot license and is SCUBA certified. Dr. Proctor has been a geoscience professor for over 20 years at South Mountain Community College in Phoenix, Arizona and is currently on reassignment as the Open Educational Resource Coordinator for the Maricopa Community College District.

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