Virgin Galactic, aka the brainchild of Sir Richard Branson, has launched its first-ever expedition of sending tourists to the very fringes of space. What’s truly revolutionary? No longer do you have to be a trained and qualified astronaut to experience space, rather Branson has curated a journey specifically for exceptional tourists.
Yes, you heard right, on August 10 2023 taking off from the renowned Spaceport America in New Mexico, an astonishing expedition ascended to a stunning 55 miles (88 km) above the earth. The entire trip lasted about an hour and a half and is considered to be a breathless milestone that will challenge the limits of our universe and mark a turning point in the story of human curiosity.
The spacecraft accommodated a total of six remarkable individuals, each contributing to the mission’s pioneering spirit. Commanding the space plane was former NASA astronaut CJ Sturckow.
Aboard the spacecraft were also three private passengers who etched their names in history. Two of them were health and wellness coach Keisha Schahaff, along with her 18-year-old daughter, Anastasia Mayers both of who hail from Antigua.
Schahaff secured her spot through a Space for Humanity fundraising competition, an initiative dedicated to democratising space exploration. Her daughter is currently a philosophy and physics student at Aberdeen University. Together, they make history as the first-ever mother-daughter team to embark on such an expedition.
Schahaff shared: “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. The fact that I am here, the first to travel to space from Antigua, shows that space really is becoming more accessible.” The mother-daughter duo will be the first astronauts from the Caribbean.
I have to be honest, as a young black woman, observing them from the video, beautiful with their elegant braids dancing in harmony with the forces of gravity, I was deeply moved. This moment really underscored the immense importance of such representation.
Joining the private passengers were also pioneers, Jon Goodwin, an intrepid 80-year-old British ex-Olympian. Facing Parkinson’s disease, Goodwin reiterated that adversities need not curb our thirst for adventure.
The experience itself was nothing short of transcendent. Goodwin, upon reflection, confessed that the experience was “completely surreal” and far surpassed his expectations. The breathtaking view of Earth from space, he described, was an unparalleled spectacle.
As Branson’s vision comes to fruition, we find ourselves at the dawn of a new era.