Virgin Galactic sent its first privately funded adventurers — and its first space sweepstakes winners — past the 50-mile space boundary today.
The tourists on the suborbital space trip known as Galactic 02 included Keisha Schahaff, who won two tickets in an online contest organized by the Omaze charity sweepstakes platform and a nonprofit group called Space for Humanity in 2021. She and her daughter, Anastatia Mayers, became the first mother-and-daughter duo to share a spaceflight, and the first spacefliers from the Caribbean island nation of Antigua and Barbuda.
“I kind of feel like I was born in this life for this,” Schahaff, a wellness coach, told NBC’s “Today” show. Her daughter is a college student who aims to become an astrobiologist.
Jon Goodwin — an 80-year-old British adventurer who competed as a canoeist in the 1972 Olympics — also broke barriers on today’s Galactic 02 flight. In 2005, he was one of the first customers to reserve a spot with Virgin Galactic, back when the price was $200,000. Then, almost a decade ago, he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Today he became only the second person with Parkinson’s to take a space trip. (The first was NASA shuttle astronaut Rich Clifford.)
Early this morning, Sir Richard Branson and Virgin Galactic achieved a major milestone in the development of commercial space travel. Along with a team of specialists, Branson traveled to the edge of space aboard the VSS Unity and made it safely back to Earth. In so doing, Branson and his company have also fired the latest salvo in the ongoing race between the titans of the commercial space industry (aka. NewSpace).
It’s no secret that the commercial space industry (aka. NewSpace) has become immensely lucrative in recent years, nor the fact that it has become intensely competitive as a result. To illustrate, one needs to look no further than the top three NewSpace companies in the world right now: SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Virgin Galactic. Between these three companies, all founded by billionaires with similar visions, a new space race has begun.
In recent months, the race has intensified as Jeff Bezos announced that he would be going to space on the inaugural flight of the New Shepard rocket. In response, Virgin Galactic founder and CEO Richard Branson announced earlier this week that he would fly aboard the VSS Unity as it makes its latest test flight. If successful, this mission – scheduled for Sunday, July 11th (weather permitting) – will see Branson become the first billionaire to go to space.
Virgin Galactic has reached another milestone in their fight test program. The VSS Unity spacecraft carried a third crew member on board, in its fifth rocket-powered test flight. It was the second time that the spacecraft reached space.