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Who will be boarding Virgin Galatic’s next spaceflight?

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This still image from a Virgin Galactic video shows the Galactic 01 mission spacecraft launching the first commercial flight from Spaceport City in New Mexico on June 29, 2023. — AFP
This still image from a Virgin Galactic video shows the Galactic 01 mission spacecraft launching the first commercial flight from Spaceport City in New Mexico on June 29, 2023. — AFP 

Virgin Galactic recently successfully launched its first commercial spaceflight and already has a second spaceflight lined up to be boarded by a mother-daughter duo hailing from the Caribbean who won their tickets in a sweepstakes contest, along with an 80-year-old former Olympian.

Last month, the British billionaire Richard Branson-founded company flew the first paying customers, Italian Air Force personnel, as this long-awaited accomplishment helped the business get back on track in the developing private spaceflight industry.

According to a statement from the company, “Galactic 02,” its following mission, is scheduled to launch on August 10 from Spaceport America, New Mexico.

Keisha Schahaff, an Antigua and Barbuda health coach who won a competition that raised $1.7 million for the non-profit organisation Space for Humanity, which seeks to increase access to space, will be on board, AFP reported.

“I always was interested in space as a little girl,” she said in an interview in 2021. “This is a great opportunity for me to feel alive and to just make the greatest adventure ever.”

Her daughter, Anastasia Mayers, an 18-year-old student at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland who is majoring in philosophy and physics, will also be present. The mother-daughter team will launch into space for the first time.

Jon Goodwin, an 80-year-old adventurer who represented Great Britain as a canoeist in the 1972 Olympic Games, will also be on board. Goodwin, who received a Parkinson’s disease diagnosis in 2014, will be the second person with the condition to visit space.

The spaceflights offered by Virgin Galactic use a massive, twin-fuselage carrier aircraft that lifts off from a runway, climbs to altitude, and then lowers a rocket-powered spacecraft that flies into space alongside the passengers.

Before the spacecraft glides back to Earth, the passengers experience a brief period of weightlessness at a height of about 53 miles (85 kilometres).

Virgin Galactic was established in 2004 and has since sold about 800 tickets for seats on upcoming commercial flights: 600 between 2005 and 2014 for $200,000 to $250,000 each, and 200 more recently for $450,000 each.

With billionaire Jeff Bezos’s company, Blue Origin, which has already launched 32 passengers into space using a vertical lift-off rocket, Virgin Galactic competes in the “suborbital” space tourism market.

However, Blue Origin’s rocket has been grounded since an incident in September 2022 while it was flying unmanned. In March, the company said it would soon start up again.

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