After years of anticipation and several delays, Virgin Galactic has triumphantly accomplished its first tourist flight to the edge of space. This groundbreaking event included notable passengers like former British Olympian Jon Goodwin and the mother-daughter duo, Keisha Schahaff and Anastatia Mayers, hailing from Antigua and Barbuda. The historic Galactic 02 flight marked the second commercial voyage by Virgin Galactic and the first foray into space for general public members not involved in specific operational tasks.
The monumental journey commenced as the spaceplane, named Unity, detached from its mothership VSS Eve at 8:30 am MDT, taking off from Spaceport America in New Mexico. Aboard the vessel were Mission Commander CJ Sturckow, Pilot Kelly Latimer, and Astronaut Instructor Beth Moses, in addition to the eager passengers. Unity’s hybrid rocket motor ignited at an altitude of 44,300 feet, propelling it to a Mach 3 speed in just over eight seconds. The craft reached an impressive maximum altitude of 55 miles (88.5 km), followed by an unpowered reentry before a successful touchdown at 9:30 am MDT.
Among the remarkable passengers, Jon Goodwin stands out, being one of the first individuals to reserve a seat on a Virgin Galactic flight back in 2005. Keisha Schahaff and Anastatia Mayers secured their spots through a Virgin Galactic drawing, participating with a US$10 donation to the non-profit organization Space For Humanity.
Virgin Galactic proudly claims several record-breaking achievements from the flight, including the first female astronauts from the Caribbean, the first mother-daughter spacefaring duo, the most women flown on a single space mission, the youngest person in space, the initial Olympian in space, and more. This remarkable journey also set the stage for the introduction of a monthly spaceflight service in September, aiming to make space travel more accessible.
Mission Commander CJ Sturckow expressed the awe-inspiring experience of the journey, emphasizing the magic and excitement of spaceflight that never fades. Sturckow also praised the collaboration with Pilot Kelly Latimer, one of the pioneering female commercial spaceship pilots.
As Virgin Galactic continues to push the boundaries of space tourism, these achievements mark a significant step forward in making space accessible to a broader audience, ushering in a new era of space exploration and adventure.