On July 13th, Virgin Galactic announced that its second commercial spaceflight will have a flight window starting on August 10th. The company also indicated that this time the Galactic 02 mission will carry three civilians as crew members, unlike the previous trip. “This mission will be Virgin Galactic’s seventh spaceflight, second commercial spaceflight and third spaceflight this year,” the company states on its website. “The mission will carry three private passengers into space.”
Four days later, on July 17th, the company revealed the names of the crew that would participate on the mission. VSS Unity will carry 80-year-old Jon Goodwin, Olympian and early Virgin Galactic ticket holder, as well as Keisha Schahaff and Anastatia Mayers, a Caribbean mother-daughter duo who won their seats in a draw that raised funds for non-profit Space for Humanity.
Keisha Schahaff (46) and her daughter Anastatia Mayers (18) won their tickets in a drawing after participating in a fundraiser hosted by Virgin Galactic, as reported by Agence France-Presse. The amount Schahaff donated was not disclosed but donations started at $10. Virgin Group founder Richard Branson traveled himself to Keisha Schahaff’s home to deliver the news.
The fact that I am here, the first to travel to space from Antigua, shows that space is becoming more accessible.Keisha Schahaff, crew member
Jon Goodwin (80) was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2014, as reported by CNN. Goodwin’s goal is to be the second person with the condition to travel to space. Goodwin competed as a canoeist in the 1972 Munich Games. “When I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2014, I was determined not to let it stand in the way of living life to the fullest,” Goodwin said in the company’s press release. “And now for me to go to space with Parkinson’s is completely magical. I hope this inspires all others facing adversity and shows them that challenges don’t have to inhibit or stop them from pursuing their dreams.”
Beth Moses, the company’s chief astronaut instructor, will also be on board. According to CNN, Moses has been to space three times with Virgin Galactic. In 2019, she became the first person to fly to space as a passenger on a commercial space vehicle. Fewer than 700 people have traveled to space, with little diversity among that group. The Galactic 02 mission will achieve a number of historical milestones. VSS Unity will fly:
- The first astronauts from the Caribbean
- The first mother-daughter duo to go to space
- The first Olympian to go to space
- The second youngest person to go to space
- The second person with Parkinson’s to go to space
“When I was two years old, just looking up to the skies, I thought, ‘How can I get there?’ But, being from the Caribbean, I didn’t see how something like this would be possible,” said Keisha Schahaff. “The fact that I am here, the first to travel to space from Antigua, shows that space really is becoming more accessible. I know I will be changed by my experience, and I hope I will be able to share that energy and inspire the people around me, in my role as a life coach, a mother, and as an ambassador for our beautiful planet.”
Virgin Galactic conducted the Galactic 01 mission last June 29th. A carrier aircraft, VMS Eve, took the spaceship, VSS Unity, to the altitude of 15,000 meters, after which Eve detached while Unity turned on its engines and soared to suborbital space. The crew, comprising three scientists from the Italian Air Force and the Italian National Research Council and one Virgin Galactic Pilot, reached an altitude of 87,000 meters, spending about 10 minutes in microgravity conditions before starting the descent.
The aim of the mission, called Virtue 1, was to conduct 13 human-tended and autonomous experiments which examine biomedicine thermos-fluid dynamics and the development of innovative and sustainable materials in microgravity conditions. The researchers also evaluated and measured hypergravity to microgravity transition effects on the human body, including both biological and physical data properties. The crew was equipped with wearable research payloads and sensors and autonomous research payloads were also mounted in the cabin on Virgin Galactic’s payload rack system to collect further data.
For the Galactic 02 mission, the company has not yet revealed what the crew members will be doing. It could well be the space flight triggering the company’s plan: to offer commercial space travel for US$450,000 per ticket. Some users have been paying for a ticket for more than ten years, although the cost at that time was between US$200,000 and US$250,000.
“This flight highlights two of Virgin Galactic’s core aspirations, increasing access to space and inspiring people around the world,” said Michael Colglazier, CEO, Virgin Galactic. “Watching Keisha, Ana and Jon embark on this transformative experience helps demonstrate that space is now opening to a broader and more diverse population across the globe.”