Virgin Galactic sends oldest-ever Brit and first mother-daughter duo into space-ish
Depending on where you draw the line
Virgin Galactic successfully launched its first-ever private commercial spaceflight on Thursday, flying three space tourists to altitudes high enough to experience zero-gravity conditions for a few minutes.
The flight, dubbed Galactic '02, was boarded by Jon Goodwin, a former Olympian and slalom canoeist, who reportedly purchased a ticket back in 2005 for $250,000 (about £191,000 back then). He was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 2014, and at 80 years old, Goodwin is now the oldest Brit (and third oldest person) to travel to space.
Goodwin's fellow passengers were Keisha Schahaff, 46, a health and wellness coach, and Anastatia Mayers, 18, of Antigua and Barbuda, who together became the first mother-daughter duo to take part in a spaceflight.
According to Virgin Galactic, this flight hit a number of other milestones: the first female astronauts from the Caribbean, the youngest person to go to space, the first Olympian to go to space, and so on.
Schahaff won two seats to fly with Virgin Galactic as part of a philanthropic fundraiser event for Space for Humanity, a non-profit org that sponsors citizen astronauts.
She invited her daughter along for the ride; Mayers is an aspiring astrobiologist studying Physics and Philosophy at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland.
Galactic '02 launched from Spaceport America, New Mexico, at 0830 MDT (1430 UTC). The three passengers aboard the VSS Unity were accompanied by Virgin Galactic's commander CJ Stuckow, pilot Kelly Latimer, and astronaut instructor Beth Moses. The shuttle is initially attached to its VMS Eve mothership to get it to 44,300 feet before it is released and fires its rockets to reach three times the speed of sound and a maximum height of 55 miles above ground.
The distance is considered the edge of space by US standards though it isn't as far as the internationally accepted Kármán Line 62 miles up from the surface. As they reached their highest point, the amateur astronauts got to experience a few minutes of weightlessness before they descended back to Earth. All in all, the flight lasted an hour.
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"Today Virgin Galactic took another historic leap forward by flying our first private astronaut mission and demonstrating how our spaceflights will broaden access to space," Virgin Galactic's CEO Michael Colglazier said in a statement.
"Jon, Keisha and Ana each embody our fundamental belief that space is for everyone, and we are proud that today's flight has inspired people and communities around the world. This is just the beginning, as we plan to continue flying monthly spaceflights while also developing our Delta Class production spaceships to scale our business."
The company's Galactic '01 in June was technically its first-ever commercial mission. Its three space travellers were members of the Italian Air Force, who brought equipment to conduct 13 experiments looking at the effects of microgravity on the human body and other materials.
Virgin Galactic said its planning to launch its third commercial mission next month. Private spaceflights are not cheap; a ticket aboard its VSS Unity spaceship costs $450,000.
Founded in 2004 by British billionaire Richard Branson, Virgin Galactic has taken nearly two decades to officially launch its space tourism business.
You can rewatch the Galactic '02 mission here. ®