Space Travel: Virgin Galactic’s First Tourist Flight Blasts Off

Virgin Galactic's first commercial space rocket blasts off, on a solid pastel blue background.
Photo Credit: Virgin Galactic x GGD News

Virgin Galactic’s very first space tourism flight has officially landed back safely. The VSS Unity rocket blasted off from Spaceport America, New Mexico earlier today. Onboard were civilian tourists, a flight crew and chief astronaut instructor Beth Moses. During the 90-minute trip, passengers Keisha Schahaff (a health and wellness coach), her daughter Anastatia Mayers, and Olympian Jon Goodwin reached the edge of space. The trio were able to float and experience zero-gravity. At an altitude of 279,000ft (85km) above, all passengers could see the curvature of Earth and experience the Overview Effect— a positive, mental shift in perspective that happens when humans look at Earth from space.

Schahaff (a native of Antigua) won seat tickets for the spaceflight after submitting her name for a contest while traveling to visit her daughter, a student at Aberdeen University in Scotland. Mayers is majoring in physics and philosophy. Together, Schahaff and Mayers are the first mother-daughter duo traveling to space. “This is my kid, I love her with all my heart, and to know that we both share the same goal, the same dream, that is super over the moon,” Schahaff told the BBC.

Keisha Schahaff and Anastatia Mayers; the first Mother and daughter duo traveling to space via Virgin Galactic's Unity VSS rocket. Photo is on a solid yellow cream background.
Photo Credit: Virgin Galactic x GGD News

18-year-old Mayers is now the second youngest person traveling to space. In 2005, (the same year Mayers was born) fellow passenger Jon Goodwin bought his ticket for $250,000. Goodwin has Parkinson’s disease and is from Newcastle, England. The 80 year-old competed in the 1972 Summer Olympics as a canoeist. The Galactic 02 mission makes Goodwin the first Olympian to go into space. He also becomes the second person with Parkinson’s to complete a spaceflight. Goodwin described today’s journey as “completely surreal.

Although the Galactic 02 represents Virgin’s first commercial flight with private passengers, it is still considered a test. The breakthrough mission was also meant to raise funds and awareness for Space for Humanity, a charity dedicated to sponsoring citizen journeys into space.

Before launching, all three passengers were required to complete training through Virgin Galactic’s Astronaut Readiness Program. The company is hoping today’s successful tourist mission becomes the first of many. Currently, about 800 people have booked spaceflights (through the company) and are being waitlisted. Tickets to fly cost up to $450,000. Virgin Galactic aims to launch tourist flights monthly. Blue Origin, SpaceX and Axiom Space are just a few of the other companies vying for market dominance in space tourism; a very young, seemingly unreal, but quickly expanding industry.

Keisha Schahaff, Anastatia Mayers, and Jon Goodwin; three private citizens flying to space as tourists via Virgign Galactic's Galactic 02 mission. The color photo is on a yellow cream background.
Photo Credit: Virgin Galactic x GGD News

Sir Richard Branson, the billionaire owner and founder of Virgin Galactic tweeted, “Today we flew three incredible private passengers to space… Congratulations Virgin Galactic commercial astronauts 011, 012 and 013 – welcome to the club!” You can watch today’s trip through the livestream here. The Galactic 03 spaceflight is expected to take off in September.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *