Virgin Galactic’s first space tourism flight successfully lands back on Earth

Three passengers were flown to the edge of space and experienced zero-gravity

Virgin Galactic’s first space tourism flight has successfully landed back on Earth after taking three passengers into space.

They were flown to the edge of space and experienced zero-gravity while looking back at the curvature of the planet before returning to Earth.

The mission marked the first time a mother-daughter duo flew into space together.

Keisha Schahaff (46) and her daughter Anastatia Mayers (18) who is studying physics and philosophy at the University of Aberdeen in the US, won a coveted place on a mission in a prize draw.


But 80-year-old former Olympian Jon Goodwin, from Newcastle in the UK, secured his seat as the company’s first paying customer 18 years ago, after buying a $250,000 (€227,472) ticket.

He is the first Olympian, and only the second person with Parkinson’s disease, to go into space.

The landing at 4.33pm (Irish time) was met by applause from those watching on from Virgin Galactic, with the passengers smiling and nodding.

The mother ship VMS Eve took off from New Mexico at about 3.30pm Irish time, and after reaching an altitude of about 44,500ft VSS Unity was released at about 4.17pm Irish time.

Shortly after, the passengers were given the all-clear to unbuckle and enjoy zero gravity, at which point they immediately reached for the windows to take in the views of Earth.

They then returned to their seats and strapped themselves back in ahead of the return journey.

In June, Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic successfully completed the company’s first commercial space flight, taking Italian astronauts into space to conduct a number of scientific experiments.

The company is calling the first private astronaut mission on Thursday Galactic 02.

If all goes well, Virgin Galactic will begin offering monthly trips to customers on its winged space plane, joining Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and Elon Musk’s SpaceX in the space tourism business.

Matt Archer, launch director at the UK Space Agency, said: “Today’s launch marks an exciting milestone for the global space sector, and especially for Virgin Galactic.

“We at the UK Space Agency wish them all the best after what has been a long and difficult journey that demonstrates just how tough launching into space can be.

“A huge amount of work goes into developing launch capabilities and, while space tourism is an interesting part of it, there is an incredibly diverse range of business and career opportunities that need people of all backgrounds and skill sets.

“In the UK alone, we have almost 50,000 people working in the space sector and our plan is to become the leading provider of small satellite launch in Europe by 2030 – providing world-leading services, bringing new markets to the UK and inspiring the next generation of British space professionals.” – PA