Virgin Galactic to launch first private astronaut mission and second commercial flight - who is on board?

The mission is dubbed Galactic 02
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Virgin Galactic has announced the crew of its seventh spaceflight and second commercial spaceflight, dubbed Galactic 02 - which launches on 10 August 2023.

Aboard will be three private passengers, as well as Virgin's chief astronaut instructor, and two pilots. 

The flight is scheduled to lift off from New Mexico's Spaceport America and marks the second commercial spaceflight launched by the company. 

The first was launched successfully on 29 June, for the Italian Air Force, and the nation's National Research Council. 

Virgin Galactic's VSS Unity space plane soars high above Earth on its first commercial spaceflight on June 29, 2023. (Image credit: Virgin Galactic)Virgin Galactic's VSS Unity space plane soars high above Earth on its first commercial spaceflight on June 29, 2023. (Image credit: Virgin Galactic)
Virgin Galactic's VSS Unity space plane soars high above Earth on its first commercial spaceflight on June 29, 2023. (Image credit: Virgin Galactic)

VSS Unity, the name of the rocket, will hold some historical milestones, and carry: 

  • 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

Who will be on board? 

Aboard the VSS Unity will be: 

  • John Goodwin, 80, who will be the first Olypuan to travel to space, and the second person to travel into space with Parkinson's disease.

"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 today's update. "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."

  • Keisha Schahaff, 46, is an entrepreneur and health and wellness coach from Antigua and Barbuda. She is the beneficiary of two spaceflight seats in a draw which raised $1.7M in grants for the non-profit Space for Humanity. 

"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," Schahaff said. "The fact that I am here, the first to travel to space from Antigua, shows that space really is becoming more accessible."

  • Anastasia Mayers, 18, the second youngest person to travel to space, and a student at the University of Aberdeen studying philosophy and Physics. She is also Keisha's daughter. 
  • Beth Moss, astronaut 002, and lead astronaut will be carrying out all the training and preparation for the mission. 

The pilots include: 

  • CJ Sturckow will be flying his eighth spaceflight. 
  • Kelly Latimer will be aboard her first spaceflight. 

Rachel Lyons, Executive Director, of Space for Humanity, said, “Beholding Earth from the vantage point of space bestows upon astronauts an awe-inspiring perspective, referred to as The Overview Effect, that transcends boundaries and unites humanity. It is this transformative perspective that holds one of the keys to tackling our world’s most pressing challenges. At Space For Humanity, our purpose is to grant as many individuals as possible access to this life-altering viewpoint, not only for the betterment of our civilization’s future but also to confront the urgent needs of our world today. This profound awareness underscores our collective responsibility to treat one another with greater kindness, and to safeguard and cherish our home planet – the irreplaceable cradle of our existence."

Unity lifts off beneath the wing of a carrier plane called WhiteKnightTwo, which will drop the spacecraft at an altitude of around 50,000 feet (15,000 meters). 

Unity will then fire up its onboard rocket motor, makings its own way to suborbital space and treating passengers to a few minutes of weightlessness and great views of Earth.

On Galactic 02, Nicola Pecile will command WhiteKnightTwo and Mike Masucci will pilot it, Virgin Galactic said.

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