SpaceX’s Inspiration4 mission, which orbited the Earth with four passengers on board for three days last week, was a small step for mankind — its orbit duplicated that of Russian cosmonauts and American astronauts back in the Kennedy Administration — but it was a giant leap for the commercial space business. It was the first space flight to orbit the Earth with only private citizens on board.
Thirty-eight-year-old Jared Isaacman, who grew up in Bernards Township, was one of those passengers, and paid for all four of them. In addition to becoming a billionaire through the payment processing company Shift4 Payments, which he started when he was 16, Isaacman also is a trained pilot. He owns the world’s largest private fleet of military aircraft, and set a world record for circumnavigating the globe in a light jet. That record was set as part of a fund-raising project for the Make-A-Wish-Foundation of New Jersey. The space mission was a fund-raiser for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. Two of Isaacson’s companions on his voyage were selected by the hospital; the third was the winner of a contest sponsored by Shift4 Payments.
Isaacman’s big venture into Jewish fundraising came in 2010, when he offered the chance to be a fighter jet pilot for the day in one of his aircraft as a prize for a Chabad of Hunterdon County auction.
As it happens, Isaacman is the third New Jersey Jew to venture into space. There have been 16 Jewish astronauts. Two of them — American Judith Resnik and Israeli Ilan Ramon — died in space shuttle accidents. The other New Jersey Jewish astronauts are Garrett Reisman, who grew up in Morristown and spent 107 days on the International Space Station in 2008, and Mark Polansky, who was born in Paterson, grew up in Edison, and flew on three shuttle missions between 2001 and 2009.
The next Jew in space is expected to be Eytan Stibbe, an Israeli air force veteran who served under Ilan Ramon. He too will be paying his way for his space tour, which will include a 10-day stay on the International Space Station. He is scheduled to launch in January on the same spacecraft, the Resilience, that carried Isaacman.