Virgin Galactic Flies Tourists To Space For The First Time

According to Virgin Galactic, the company has already booked a backlog of about 800 customers. Tickets have ranged from $250,000 to $450,000.

Virgin Galactic, the pioneering space tourism company founded by Sir Richard Branson, achieved a significant milestone on Thursday as its VSS Unity spaceplane completed a successful launch and landing.

This marked the company’s second commercial spaceflight, known as Galactic 02, and it showcased the potential of reusable rocket-powered spaceplanes in making space tourism a reality.

Soaring to the Skies

The VSS Unity’s momentous flight commenced shortly after 11am ET from the state-of-the-art Spaceport America in New Mexico. On board the spaceplane were six individuals, each contributing a unique chapter to this historic voyage.

The crew’s composition included the capable hands of former NASA astronaut CJ Sturckow as the spaceplane’s commander, skillfully piloted by Kelly Latimer. Notably, the team also featured Beth Moses, Virgin Galactic’s esteemed chief astronaut instructor, who diligently prepared the crew for their voyage.

Breaking Barriers

Galactic 02 embraced diversity as it carried a trio of private passengers, each with a compelling story to tell. Keisha Schahaff, a health and wellness coach, and her 18-year-old daughter Anastasia Mayers embarked on this cosmic adventure. Hailing from Antigua, Schahaff earned her coveted seat through a Space for Humanity fundraising competition, signifying a step towards democratising space travel. Anastasia, pursuing studies in philosophy and physics at Aberdeen University in Scotland, etched her name in the annals of space history as the youngest participant in this escapade.

The mission also witnessed the inclusion of Jon Goodwin, an 80-year-old former Olympian. Goodwin, who competed in canoeing at the 1972 Olympics in Munich, became the first Olympian to venture into space while grappling with Parkinson’s disease. His resilience and determination illuminated the notion that adversity need not hinder the pursuit of dreams.


The Suborbital Flight Experience


While VSS Unity’s trajectory didn’t culminate in achieving orbital status, it provided passengers with a remarkable encounter with space. The suborbital flight allowed individuals to relish several minutes of weightlessness while gazing upon Earth’s curvature.

As elucidates, the experience unfolded with Virgin Galactic’s carrier plane, VMS Eve, lifting VSS Unity to an altitude of approximately 44,300 feet. Following the separation, Unity ignited its own rocket motor, ascending into suborbital space and subjecting passengers to approximately 3Gs of force.

Captivating Views

Live footage streamed from within the spacecraft captured the ethereal moment when passengers unbuckled from their seats, floating amidst awe-inspiring views of our planet. Schahaff, visibly moved, expressed her sentiments during a post-flight press conference. Her words encapsulated the profound impact of the journey: “Looking at Earth was the most amazing… It really was the best ride ever. I would love to do this again.”

For Mayers, the experience was transformative, fostering an unprecedented sense of connection: “You felt like a part of the team, a part of the ship, a part of the universe, a part of Earth. It was incredible, and I’m still starstruck.”


The Future of Space Tourism

Galactic 02’s triumphant voyage signals a promising future for space tourism, a sector spearheaded by visionary entrepreneurs such as Sir Richard Branson, Elon Musk of SpaceX, and Jeff Bezos of Blue Origin. Virgin Galactic, with its VSS Unity, has been steadily shaping this new era, aiming to make space accessible to a broader spectrum of individuals. To date, the company boasts a substantial backlog of approximately 800 customers who are eagerly awaiting their turn to experience the cosmos.

As Galactic 02 fades into history, the anticipation for the company’s next endeavor, Galactic 03, looms on the horizon. Set to take flight in September, this upcoming mission will undoubtedly captivate the world once again, further solidifying Virgin Galactic’s role as a pioneer in the burgeoning field of space tourism.

In the words of Sir Richard Branson himself, “Congratulations Virgin Galactic commercial astronauts 011, 012, and 013 – welcome to the club!” The club, indeed, is growing, and as more individuals venture beyond our planet’s boundaries, the cosmos becomes an increasingly accessible frontier for those with a penchant for exploration and a willingness to dream.