Tuesday, November 30

Countdown: Inspiration4 Mission to Space Review: Does Elon Musk Really Need Free PR? | TV

WAlthough I can still (“allowed” is possibly the verb I want), I would like to register my objection to ads posing as legitimate streaming content on a subscription service that I pay good money for. This is not how that particular model is supposed to work. I realize, of course, that I am Cnut howling at the digital airwaves. But proving our helplessness against them is the only thing left for us.

Netflix’s new documentary series, or “documentary series,” Countdown: Inspiration4 Mission to Space, is the culprit in this case. It is designed to track the recruitment process, preparation and then, as close to real time as possible, the launch of the first fully civilian flight into space, by Elon Musk’s SpaceX company.

The first two episodes introduce us to the crew of Musk’s Inspiration4 project, but only after we have been thoroughly briefed on the greatness of what we are about to witness. Space is “humanity’s great mockery”, and non-astronauts circling the earth in the reusable Dragon rocket is “a watershed moment.” “It is a certainty that we will become a multi-planetary species,” as you see, “and this is the next significant step.” I hope you feel suitably awed and foreshadowed. If not, there’s a lot more where that came from.

We meet Jared Isaacman, a high school dropout who founded his first company, Shift4Payments, a PayPal-like operation that now processes $ 200bn (£ 145bn) a year for US restaurants and hotels, from the his parents’ basement when he was a teenager. Isaacman is the rarest of beasts, a genuinely personable billionaire, and, when he bought all four seats on the flight, one imagines Musk must have been elated with his charming leader.

Not that the fact that Isaacman bought the seats is made explicit on the show. Possibly this is because it is thought to be so obvious that it doesn’t have to be. Or possibly not. There is much talk about the fundraising portion of the effort (Inspiration4 aims to raise $ 200 million for St Jude Children’s Hospital in Memphis and Isaacman has already donated half of the sum) and changing the spirit of national effort, collective and investment in space exploration a private and commercial companies are not covered. The closest we get to any kind of ethical consideration or probe is a single question to Musk about whether we should seek to solve some of the many problems on Earth before looking at the stars, which he may reject. “We should spend 99.9% of our resources on solving [them]”He says, which is an intriguing use of“ we ”and“ our ”. “The rest can be spent on an exciting and inspiring future … If life is about problems, what is the use of living?” So that’s all neat, then.

Isaacson acknowledges his privilege more openly, but the $ 200 million to St Jude’s is clearly seen as covering a multitude of what some might categorize as moral sins.

Never mind. This is all “a breakthrough” and all is well because the other seats are for ordinary people, albeit the ones that fit the “Pillars of Mission” of Hope, Generosity, Prosperity and Leadership. The inclusion of this emetic element isn’t the show’s fault, at least. It’s from the United States.

Isaacman, who offers the most nous, has a lot of flight experience under his belt and serves as a flight commander, representing Leadership. Childhood cancer survivor and physician’s assistant Hayley Arceneaux, who was treated and now works at St Jude’s, is in Hope’s seat. Christopher Sembroski, who donated as part of the fundraising raffle, is Generosity (although perhaps this should also be in recognition of the friend who actually won and gave Sembroski his seat. This is not mentioned in the show, which, as mentioned, he’s on the hunt for a streamlined and simple narrative throughout. Seat transfer may be inconsequential, but he wonders how many more awkward facts could have been left out). The final seat, Prosperity, went to Sian Proctor, professor of geology and fellowship in the Civil Air Patrol (another fact that has been overlooked, lest it appear, perhaps, that these ordinary Americans on the first civilian mission did not they seem to the public as ordinary or civil as they could).

I’m sure the spontaneous nature of the piece will become less obvious as the release approaches and the genuine drama and tensions begin to fill the hours. But that doesn’t alter what it is. Everyone’s time and money, all those billions, could be better spent.


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