Virgin Galactic carried its first space tourists into space Aug. 10, from Space Port America in New Mexico.
This is Virgin Galactic’s seventh trip to space since 2018, but the first with a paid ticket-holder.
Onboard were a former British Olympian and a mother-daughter team from the Caribbean.
Jon Goodwin, who competed in the 1972 Olympics in canoeing, bought his ticket in 2005. The 80-year old athlete suffers from Parkinson’s disease. Goodwin bought his ticket when it cost $200,000 – the cost is now $450,000.
Goodwin said he wanted to be an inspiration to others.
“I hope this inspires all others facing adversity and shows them that challenges don’t have to inhibit or stop them from pursuing their dreams.
“From becoming an Olympian to canoeing between the peaks of Annapurna, to winning a six-day race in the Arctic Circle, climbing Mount Kilimanjaro (and cycling back down), I’ve always enjoyed new challenges,” he said.
“When I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2014, I was determined not to let it stand in the way of living live to the fullest,” Goodwin said. “And now for me to go to space with Parkinson’s is completely magical.”
Goodwin was joined by sweepstake winner Keisha Schahaff, 46, a health coach from Antigua, and her 18-year old daughter, Anastatia Mayers, a student at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland.
“When I was two years old, just looking up to the skies, I thought, ‘How can I get there?’ But, being from the Caribbean, I didn’t see how something like this would be possible. The fact that I am here, the first to travel to space from Antigua, shows that space really is becoming more accessible. I know that I will be changed by my experience, and I hope I will be able to share that energy and inspire the people around me – in my role as a life coach, a mother, and as an ambassador for our beautiful planet.”
The three were joined by two pilots, CJ Sturckow and Kelly Latimer and Virgin Galactic’s astronaut trainer, Beth Moses. Onboard VMS Eve was Nicola Pecile, commander, and Mike Masucci, pilot.
Virgin Galactic joins Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin in the space tourism business.
The Virgin Galactic rocket ship – known as VSS Unity – launches from the belly of an airplane – known as VMS Eve. Once the mothership reaches an altitude of about 50,000 feet, VSS Unity is released, fires its rockets and makes the final p0ush to an altitude of about 50 miles. Passengers can then unstrap, float around the cabin feeling weightlessness, and see sweeping views of Earth. The space plane then glides back home and lands on the runway at Space Port America.
In contrast, both SpaceX and Blue Origin use fully automated capsules that parachute back to Earth.