Virgin Galactic has launched its first cruise after decades of promises

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Virgin Galactic — the space tourism company founded by British billionaire Richard Branson — finally launched its first space tourists to the edge of the cosmos, a major step toward delivering on decades of promise.

The company’s rocket-powered space plane, VSS Unity, docked with a large twin-spare mothership from the New Mexico space station at 8:30 MT.

It had three clients: entrepreneur and health and wellness coach Keisha Shahhoff and her daughter Anastasia Meyers — the first space travelers from Antigua who won their spots on the fundraising map — as well as former Olympian John Goodwin, who competed as a canoeist in 1972. Munich Summer Games. Goodwin became the second person with Parkinson’s disease to go into space.

The crew’s journey began at the Virgin Galactic space station in New Mexico, where passengers boarded the VSS Unity, sitting beneath the wing of the mothership known as VMS Eve.

VMS Eve took off like an airplane and barreled down the runway before climbing to 40,000 feet (12,192 meters). After VMS Eve reached its designated altitude, VSS Unity released and fired its rocket engine for a minute, heading directly upward, sending it toward the stars.

Andres Leighton/AP

Space tourists, from left, John Goodwin, Anastasia Meyers and her mother, Keisha Shahhoff, are seen before boarding a Virgin Galactic flight at Spaceport America near Truth or Consequences in New Mexico.

The vehicle hovered 50 miles (80 kilometers) above Earth’s surface, an altitude the US government considers the edge of space. (Internationally, the Karmann line, 62 miles (100 kilometers) above sea level, is used to mark the boundary between our planet and space—but there are more. Gray area.)

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The space plane reached supersonic speeds as it blasted upward. At the peak of its flight, the vehicle spent a few minutes in weightlessness before it entered free fall and returned to the space station for a runway landing at 9:30 AM MT. The journey lasted for an hour.

The mission was launched on the back of the success of Virgin Galactic’s first commercial mission. June. That inaugural flight was a research-focused mission with passengers funded by the Italian Air Force — rather than celebrities and wealthy thrill-seekers. are flown by Virgin Galactic’s arch-rival, Jeff Bezos’ blue look. (However, future Virgin Galactic flights are expected to include upscale customers.)

Thursday’s mission was Virgin Galactic’s first to include tourists, or passengers flying for experience rather than professional skills.

Courtesy Virgin Galactic

(From left) Anastasia Meyers, John Goodwin and Keisha Shahhoff will fly aboard Galactic 02 in August.

Shahoff and her daughter, Meyers, won their spots on the drawing that raised $1.7 million in grants. A place for humanityA non-profit organization focused on expanding access to space.

They were among the first people from the Caribbean to travel into space; A Jamaican American and Virgin Galactic employee A test flight was flown in May.

“When I was two years old, I looked up at the sky and thought, ‘How do I get there?’ But coming from the Caribbean, I don’t see how this is possible,” Shahoff said in a statement. Press release Last month. “The fact that I’m here, the first person to travel to space from Antigua, shows that space is really becoming accessible.”

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Meyers, 18, is a second-year undergraduate studying philosophy and physics at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland. According to Virgin Galactic, he is the second youngest person to travel in space. (The current record is held by Oliver Damon, who was 18 years old with pesos (on Blue Origin’s inaugural passenger flight in 2021.)

Goodwin was one of the earliest ticket holders for Virgin Galactic, which launched its first sale For more than a decade.

Goodwin said in 2014 that he was determined not to let a Parkinson’s diagnosis stand in the way of joining an airline.

“Now that I’m going into space with Parkinson’s it’s absolutely magical,” he said in a news release. “I hope it inspires everyone else who faces adversity and shows them that challenges don’t have to deter or stop them from pursuing their dreams.”

Advocates have long argued that space travel is better suited for people with physical disabilities because the weightless environment allows for easier navigation and improved mobility.

It was recently listed by the European Space Agency John McPaul, a Paralympic runner who lost a leg in a motorcycle accident at the age of 19, to further test that hypothesis. McFall will participate in feasibility studies to determine how to adapt the space station and other spacecraft to meet the needs of people with disabilities.

Carrying its first tourists was a huge milestone for Virgin Galactic, which was founded in 2004 and has long missed deadlines to deliver on promises of more frequent trips to the edge of space.

Now that it’s up and running, the company can turn to its long backlog of customers who signed up for the flight. Virgin Galactic has sold around 800 ticketsIncluding the 600 priced up to $250,000 and another pair of hundreds at $450,000 per ticket.

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During a call with investors on Aug. 4, CEO Michael Colglazier called the company’s recent successes a “great accomplishment.”

Virgin Atlantic

Passengers are seen inside the VSS unit during their flight.

“Galactic 02 is going to set the stage for a new era of subhuman spaceflight that will dramatically expand access to space for individuals,” he said, using Jupiter’s mission name.

Ahead of 2023, Virgin Galactic will undergo a lengthy “upgrade” process to upgrade its aircraft hardware. After many attempts the job came wrong steps In earlier test flights.

The company plans to continue using its VSS Unity spacecraft and VMS Eve mothership until at least 2026, then introduce an updated line of hardware referred to as “Delta Ships.”

Those crafts would be less expensive to manufacture and capable of conducting more flights in less time, Colglacier added.

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