‘An incredible journey’: Kannapolis native among first all-civilian crew orbiting Earth

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Spacex successfully launched the first all-civilian mission to orbit earth using a used crew dragon capsule and veteran Falcon 9 rocket.

Among the explorers is Kannapolis native Chris Sembroski. It all started when Sembroski entered a contest to travel to space earlier this year but didn’t win. His friend, however, did win and gifted Sembroski his ticket.

He reflected on the experience before the launch Wednesday night.

“It’s just been an incredible journey, and I can’t believe I’m still sitting here,” Sembroski said.

The A.L. Brown High School alum has long loved space, building space rockets and serving as a counselor at space camp.

Sembroski now lives in Washington State with his wife and children.

His parents still live in Kannapolis, although they’re at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida awaiting their son’s return on Saturday. Proud is an understatement.

“The training he has been through has not been easy. There’s been a lot of book learning, long nights, just, simulation, so much stuff he had to learn and do,” mom Gwen Sembroski told Channel 9.

It paid off. Sembroski is serving as the mission specialist -- which means he’s in charge of monitoring communications and the experiments they’ll conduct on Spacex.

He hopes living his dream will help others live theirs.

“I hope people take the opportunity to look ahead and look at each other and feel inspired to pursue whatever you’re passionate about,” he said.

The mission, called Inspiration4, is pioneered by St. Jude Hospital and SpaceX to raise awareness and money for the hospital. They have a goal of raising $200 million altogether, with plans to auction items that made the trip to space.

(WATCH: SpaceX successfully launches first all-civilian mission)