The all-civilian SpaceX crew of the Inspiration4 gushed about their "awe-inspiring" trip to orbit last week in an exclusive interview on TODAY Monday, two days after splashing back down to Earth.
Jared Isaacman, Hayley Arceneaux, Sian Proctor and Chris Sembroski made history as the first crew to orbit the Earth without a professional astronaut on board.
They spoke to NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt about rocketing into orbit aboard SpaceX's Dragon capsule, which reached an altitude of 363 miles and gave them a breathtaking view of Earth through a giant window at the top of the capsule.
"That last view of the Earth in the cupola made me emotional, because it was just so awe-inspiring, and I knew I’d be thinking about that for the rest of my life," Arceneaux said.
"Our name is Inspiration," Proctor said. "To be able to capture that view and bring it back to Earth is special."
Isaacman, 38, a billionaire entrepreneur and accomplished pilot, served as the commander of the mission, with Proctor, 51, making history as the first Black woman to serve as a spacecraft pilot.
Arceneaux, 29, a physician assistant at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, became the youngest American to ever travel to space and the first with a prosthesis. She had part of her femur removed when she was treated for bone cancer at 10 years old at St. Jude and has now returned there to help other children with cancer.
"It’s hard for me to wrap my head around because I think of myself as an ordinary person, but I hope that people can relate to me," she said.
The crew trained for six months before lifting off on Sept. 15 from Florida's Kennedy Space Center. They splashed back to Earth in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Florida three days later.
"Each of us have been changed in a way that maybe we didn't expect," said Sembroski, who is an Air Force veteran and data engineer. "And for me it was being able to see the Earth in a way that made me realize there is so much to see in person that I need to go and find those places and explore more."
Proctor, a scientist and artist, realized a lifelong dream after having previously been a finalist to become an astronaut for NASA.
"Being able to talk to girls of color, and women of color, about my experience, and even older women who sometimes when you think the best part of your life has passed you by as you’ve gotten older, that there's still a lot to learn, a lot to explore, a lot to do," she said.
Isaacman hopes the mission shows that traveling to space can be a dream for more than just professional astronauts.
"So I think having organizations like SpaceX that are working very hard to drive down the cost of spaceflight, to make it more accessible for others so that all of us can go out and journey among the stars," he said.
The trip doubled as a massive fundraiser for St. Jude, with Isaacman donating $100 million himself as part of a goal to raise $200 million for the hospital.
Arceneaux hopes her part in the historic mission can inspire children being treated for pediatric cancer and others facing struggles in life.
"I’ve had some difficulties in life, but I think everyone has in some way," she said. "I think everyone has had to overcome something, and I just I hope that people can look at my story and know that holding on to hope, that there will be better days, is so important."