First All-Civilian Crew Returns from Historic Space Mission

The Inspiration4 mission launched an all-civilian crew into space for the first time on September 16th. On September 18th at 7:06 p.m. EDT, the SpaceX Crew Dragon Resilience safely returned to earth, landing in the Atlantic ocean.

This flight was part of a massive fundraising effort by St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Jared Isaacman purchased the flight from SpaceX in order to $200 million for childhood cancer research.

The space vehicle is the most prominent asset in this article, but the communication infrastructure and ground station were critical to the mission’s success.

The four citizens that make up the crew are the first non-professional astronauts to go into space. During the flight, the crew traveled up to 367 miles above the earth and collected data on the effects on microgravity on the human body.

According to one of the crew members, “the mission aims to open up the final frontier to more people.” The most important takeaway from this article is this: space travel is now accessible to civilians. This flight set the precedent for many more civilian missions to come.

Introducing a vulnerable third party in space travel increases the potential risk from cybersecurity attacks. Essentially, civilians become a new target threat actors might try to attack. For example, terrorist groups or nation-states might hack the space vehicle and the systems that control its interior environment to harm the crew members. By doing this, they could essentially hold civilians hostage inside the space vehicle.

Malicious threat actors could also attack the critical networks of the communication signals to negatively impact the mission in some way. The lives of civilians carry a different weight than professionals, especially in the public eye. Because civilian lives are at stake, any cybersecurity attacks would quickly escalate. The government may become more active combating threat actors and the situation could evolve into a geopolitical nightmare.

While civilian space travel is a huge step forward for our society, it also carries with it significant risk and grave consequences. Civilians become another entity that is vulnerable to cybersecurity attacks. Because the Inspiration4 mission was a huge success, we should be even more wary of potential cybersecurity threats.

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