Virgin Galactic Successfully Takes First Space Tourists on Rocket Ship Ride

TRUTH OR CONSEQUENCES, N.M. – In a groundbreaking achievement for the emerging space tourism industry, Virgin Galactic successfully launched its first group of private customers into space on Thursday. The passengers included a former British Olympian who had purchased his ticket 18 years ago and a mother-daughter duo from the Caribbean. The VMS Eve space plane safely returned to Spaceport America in New Mexico after a brief flight that provided the tourists with a few minutes of weightlessness.

This milestone flight, which had been delayed for several years, signifies that Virgin Galactic is now prepared to offer monthly rides to paying customers. The company will join Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and Elon Musk’s SpaceX in the increasingly competitive space tourism market.

Passenger Jon Goodwin, who had purchased his ticket in 2005, expressed his excitement after the flight, stating, “That was by far the most awesome thing I’ve ever done in my life.” Goodwin, an 80-year-old athlete who competed in the 1972 Olympics, has Parkinson’s disease and hopes to inspire others through his journey. When he initially bought his ticket, the cost was $200,000, but it has since risen to $450,000.

Joining Goodwin on the flight were sweepstakes winner Keisha Schahaff, a 46-year-old health coach from Antigua, and her daughter Anastatia Mayers, an 18-year-old student at the University of Aberdeen. The trio embraced and celebrated their return as onlookers at the spaceport cheered. Notably, this flight marked the first time women outnumbered men on a spaceflight.

The rocket ship portion of the journey lasted approximately 15 minutes, reaching a height of 55 miles (88 kilometers). This was Virgin Galactic’s seventh trip to space since 2018, but the first with a paying customer. Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin Galactic, was present at the launch and watched the flight from Antigua, where he was attending a party.

Virgin Galactic currently has around 800 individuals on its waiting list. The company’s competitors, Blue Origin and SpaceX, utilize fully automated capsules for their flights. Blue Origin has conducted 31 launches to space thus far, but all flights are currently on hold following a rocket crash last year. Meanwhile, SpaceX already has three private crewed flights under its belt and is primarily focused on orbital travel, serving NASA as its largest customer.

Although space travel carries inherent risks, the demand for space tourism remains high. Branson’s company suffered a tragedy in 2014 when one of its rocket planes broke apart during a test flight, resulting in the death of a pilot. However, this has not deterred enthusiasts from pursuing their dreams of space exploration.


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