Virgin Galactic Takes First Tourists to Orbit
Virgin Galactic has successfully transported tourists to orbit for the first time in its history, including a mother-daughter duo and an 80-year-old British Olympian, according to Sky News.
Keisha Schahaff and her daughter Anastasia Mayers ventured into space as a result of winning a lottery that raised funds for the non-profit organization Space for Humanity. According to information from Virgin Galactic, Anastasia Mayers, an 18-year-old student at the University of Aberdeen in the United Kingdom, became the youngest person to travel to space. This achievement also marks a significant moment as Schahaff and Mayers become the first astronauts from the Caribbean Basin.
An additional passenger was 80-year-old John Goodwin, a former British Olympic canoeist who represented the UK in the 1972 Olympics. Goodwin also holds the distinction of being the first person with Parkinson's disease to journey into space. He purchased his ticket for the space flight back in 2005 for $200,000.
The journey commenced with the departure of the VMS Eve mothership from the America spaceport in New Mexico at 19:00 Kyiv time. Twenty minutes later, the VSS Unity spacecraft was released and eventually reached an altitude of 88 kilometers before returning to Earth at 19:38.
Dubbed Galactic 02, this mission marked Virgin Galactic's second commercial flight and the seventh overall in their history. Earlier this year in June, the company conducted space research with three crew members from the Italian Air Force and the National Research Council, studying microgravity conditions.
Currently, the company plans to have regular flights on the Unity spacecraft every month, with the ultimate goal being even higher frequency through a fleet of spaceplanes and carrier ships currently in development. The upcoming Delta-class spaceplane, set to launch in 2026, will be capable of flying once a week and eventually even daily. In June, Virgin Galactic announced its intention to secure $400 million in investments for the expansion of their spaceplane fleet, infrastructure, and commercial operations.
Virgin Galactic has been actively developing and testing the SpaceShip series consisting of carrier planes and spacecraft since the early 2000s. The first spaceplane prototype, SpaceShipOne, completed its maiden flight in 2003, while test flights for the SpaceShipTwo system took place in 2013. However, due to a fatal accident involving the VSS Enterprise in 2014, testing was suspended. In 2021, the company successfully tested the VSS Unity spacecraft, replacing the previous Enterprise model, with the participation of company founder Richard Branson. Unfortunately, during this flight, the spacecraft deviated slightly from its intended course, prompting the company to pause flights and undertake upgrades to the "mothership." In April 2023, VSS Unity once again took flight, lifted by the VMS Eve carrier plane. A similar test flight with passengers occurred at the end of May, reaching an altitude of 87 kilometers.