Virgin Galactic has successfully conducted its first spaceflight for tourists, taking a former Olympian, a student from the University of Aberdeen, and her mother to the edge of space.
Ana Mayers, 18, and her mother Keisha Schahaff, 46, both from Antigua, won their tickets in a competition and became the first mother-daughter duo to fly to space together.
Jon Goodwin, a person with Parkinson’s disease, also participated, making him the second person with Parkinson’s to go to space. Goodwin had purchased his ticket in 2005 for $250,000.
The journey began with the carrier mothership VMS Eve taking off from Spaceport America in New Mexico. After about 50 minutes, the Unity rocket ship separated from the mothership as planned. Passengers experienced zero gravity at an altitude of around 85km before returning to their seats and landing back at Spaceport America.
During the flight, Mayers, a second-year philosophy and physics student, enjoyed the view of Earth and space. Keisha Schahaff described looking at Earth from space as the most amazing part of the trip.
Jon Goodwin, despite having Parkinson’s disease, found the experience moving and hoped to inspire others with similar conditions to pursue their dreams.
Virgin Galactic’s founder, Sir Richard Branson, celebrated the mission and welcomed the passengers to the “club” of commercial astronauts. This achievement follows Blue Origin’s launch of paying passengers into space.
While space tourism advances science and attracts affluent individuals, it has faced criticism due to its cost and environmental impact.