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Space Tourists Take Off on Virgin Galactic’s First Flight

The passengers on Virgin Galactic-02 were Anastatia Mayers, Jon Goodwin, and Keisha Schahaff

Virgin Galactic

Virgin Galactic achieved a successful flight of its VSS Unity spaceplane, carrying space tourists for the first time. This August 10th mission marked the company’s second commercial flight but was the inaugural flight with customers rather than trained astronauts.

The launch system of Virgin Galactic consists of two components: VMS Eve, a large airplane, and VSS Unity, a smaller spaceplane. Eve took off from Spaceport America in New Mexico, with Unity attached beneath it. At an altitude of approximately 13.5 kilometers, the spaceplane was released.

Afterwards, Unity’s engine ignited, propelling the craft to an altitude of just over 80 kilometers. While the US government considers this the edge of space, some scientists argue that the lower boundary of space is at 100 kilometers. The crew experienced several minutes of weightlessness before returning to Earth.

Among the passengers were Keisha Schahaff and Anastatia Mayers, a mother-daughter duo from Antigua and Barbuda, who won their seats through a charity raffle. The third passenger, Jon Goodwin, a former Olympic canoeist from the UK, purchased his ticket for approximately $250,000 in 2005, shortly after the establishment of Virgin Galactic. Despite the delays in the company’s first space launch, which eventually took place in 2018, Goodwin held onto his ticket and was finally able to redeem it.

The rest of the crew on the flight, named Galactic-02, consisted of astronaut trainer Beth Moses and two Virgin Galactic employees who served as pilots. Virgin Galactic officials have previously announced that this mission will mark the beginning of regular launches, with an estimated frequency of approximately one per month. Therefore, the next commercial flight could occur as early as September.

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