Virgin Galactic: First Tourist Flight to Space!
The American space tourism company Virgin Galactic operated the second commercial flight to the edge of space, called Galactic 02. This is the first flight that carried tourist passengers, which included the British former Olympian Jon Goodwin, who bought the ticket 18 years ago, and Keisha Schahaff and Anastatia Mayers (a mother and daughter) from Antigua and Barbuda. In addition, the crew aboard included Mission Commander CJ Sturckow, Pilot Kelly Latimer, and Astronaut Instructor Beth Moses.
The space plane Unity was attached to a mothership called VSS Eve and was released at an altitude of 44,300 ft. (13,500 m), after which the hybrid rocket motor was fired, bringing the craft to a maximum altitude of 55 miles (88.5 km). This gave the passengers the opportunity to experience weightlessness for a couple of minutes. The space plane departed from Spaceport America in New Mexico at 8:30 a.m. and, after re-entry, arrived about an hour later.
According to the company, this flight technically reached space, and the passengers do qualify as astronauts. It also set a couple of new records. Commenting on the flight, Sturckow said “It is a surreal and humbling experience to have flown Unity today,”, adding that “The wonder and excitement of spaceflight never loses its magic. I had the honor of being joined in the cockpit by Kelly Latimer, one of the first female commercial spaceship pilots. I’m proud of the work we’re doing here at Virgin Galactic to fly more people to space.”
The next flight is scheduled for September, and a monthly service will also be offered. The cost is currently $450,000, as opposed to $200,000 when Goodwin signed up for the flight. Since 2018, this is the seventh trip to space, while the waiting list of Virgin Galactic reached 800 people. The company is headquartered in Mojave, California, US, and operates from New Mexico. Other companies, such as SpaceX and Blue Origin, have also entered the space tourism sector.