US billionaire buys SpaceX flight for a first all-civilian space mission

A US billionaire who made his fortune in technology and fighter jets is buying an entire SpaceX flight and plans to take three people with him to circle the Earth this year. 

Fundraising for Charity

On Monday, Jared Isaacman announced that the private trip is aimed at raising $200 million for St Jude's Children's Research Hospital, half of which is coming from his own pockets. 

Already, a healthcare worker for St Jude has been selected for the mission. People who donate to St Jude this month will be entered into a random draw for the third seat. Any business owner who uses Mr. Isaacman's credit card processing company in Allentown, Pennsylvania, Shift 4 Payments, will get the fourth seat. 

“I truly want us to live in a world 50 or 100 years from now where people are jumping in their rockets like the Jetsons and there are families bouncing around on the Moon with their kid in a spacesuit,” said Mr. Isaacman, who turns 38 next week.

"I also think if we are going to live in that world, we better conquer childhood cancer along the way.”

Space Geek

Described as a "space geek" since he was in kindergarten, Mr. Isaacman dropped out of high school when he was 16, earned a General Education Development certificate, and started a business in his parents’ basement, which became the genesis for Shift4.

Mr. Isaacman’s $100m commitment to St Jude in Memphis, Tennessee, is the largest ever by one person and one of the largest overall.

"We’re pinching ourselves every single day,” said Rick Shadyac, president of St Jude’s fund-raising organization.

Apart from SpaceX training, Mr. Isaacman intends to take his crew on a mountain expedition to copy his most uncomfortable experience so far – staying in a tent on the side of a mountain in biting winter conditions.

“We’re all going to get to know each other really well before launch,” he declared.