Virgin Galactic launch: First ever space tourists lift off aboard Unity rocket plane

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Virgin Galactic successfully launched its first batch of private space tourists to the edge of space. The Unity rocket plane took off from Spaceport America in New Mexico and was carried by a carrier jet to an altitude of 50,000 feet. Then, at approximately 4.20pm BST, the rocket plane detached and traveled to just over 88km, where its passengers experienced around five minutes of weightlessness.

Onboard the Galactic 02 mission were the world’s first mother-daughter duo, Keisha Schahaff, 46, and Anastatia Mayers, 18, as well as 80-year-old former Olympian Jon Goodwin, who is the second person with Parkinson’s to go into space. Goodwin secured his seat 18 years ago by purchasing a $250,000 ticket. As soon as the passengers unbuckled, they eagerly looked out of the nearest window to watch Earth drop away as they continued to ascend. They then returned to their seats and strapped themselves back in for the return journey.

Richard Branson’s space firm aims to offer monthly trips to customers starting in September, with tickets costing between $200,000 and $450,000. This is Virgin Galactic’s seventh trip to space since 2018, but the first to include paying passengers. Virgin Galactic CEO Michael Colglazier stated that this flight demonstrates the company’s goals of increasing access to space and inspiring people around the world. He described the astronauts on the flight as role models and beacons of inspiration.

Matt Archer, launch director at the UK Space Agency, congratulated Virgin Galactic on the successful launch and described it as an exciting milestone for the global space sector. He emphasized the challenges involved in launching into space and the diverse range of business and career opportunities available in the space sector. Archer highlighted the UK’s ambition to become the leading provider of small satellite launch services in Europe by 2030, creating employment opportunities and inspiring the next generation of British space professionals.

Other companies, such as SpaceX and Blue Origin, are also offering similar space tourism experiences. Virgin Galactic’s successful launch marks a significant step forward in the commercial space industry, opening up new possibilities for exploration and inspiring individuals worldwide.

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