10 August 2023

Virgin Galactic takes three passengers to edge of space on first tourism flight

10 August 2023

Virgin Galactic has successfully launched its first space tourism flight, sending three passengers to the edge of space.

For the first time, a mother-daughter duo flew into space, after winning a coveted place in a prize draw.

Keisha Schahaff, 46, and her daughter, Anastatia Mayers, 18, who is studying physics and philosophy at the University of Aberdeen, were joined by an 80-year-old former Olympian with Parkinson’s disease.

Jon Goodwin, from Newcastle, became the first Olympian – and only the second person with Parkinson’s – to go into space.

He secured his seat as the company’s first paying customer 18 years ago, after buying a 250,000 US dollar (currently worth about £195,000) ticket.

The mothership VMS Eve took off from New Mexico at about 3.30pm UK time.

After reaching an altitude of about 44,500 feet, VSS Unity was released just after 4.17pm UK time and, a short time later, the passengers were given the all-clear to unbuckle by the instructor and enjoy zero gravity for a few minutes while observing the curvature of the Earth and the black of space.

As soon as they unbuckled, all three passengers were keen to get a view out of the nearest window, watching Earth drop away as they continued to ascend.

They then returned to their seats and strapped themselves back in ahead of the return journey.

In June, Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic successfully completed the company’s first commercial spaceflight, taking Italian astronauts into space to conduct a number of scientific experiments.

The company is calling the first private astronaut mission on Thursday, Galactic 02.

If all goes well, Richard Branson’s company will begin offering monthly trips to customers on its winged space plane, joining Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and Elon Musk’s SpaceX in the space tourism business.

The best videos delivered daily

Watch the stories that matter, right from your inbox