Virgin Galactic’s second commercial spaceflight successfully launched today at 11:23 from the company’s Spaceport America site in New Mexico. The spaceflight reached an altitude of around 290,000 feet at about two and a half minutes post-takeoff.
Aboard the Galactic-02 mission’s reusable VSS Unity spaceplane were the first mother-daughter visitors to space, Keisha and Anastatia Mayers, along with former Olympian and Brit Jon Goodwin. At 18-years-old, University of Aberdeen physics and philosophy student Anastatia Mayers is now the youngest person to embark on such a journey.
Similar to rival private space ventures like Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic’s VSS Unity technically only reaches a suborbital altitude, which technically is not “outer space,” per se. A fair amount of back-and-forth between experts still exists on the actual atmospheric boundary, space itself is considered to begin roughly 62 miles (327,360 feet) above the Earth’s surface—a demarcation known as the Kármán line. This height still allows for several minutes of weightlessness along with a view of Earth’s curvature beneath the inky blackness of space. Unlike Blue Origin or SpaceX vehicles, however, travelers first ascend while attached to a carrier plane, VMS Eve, before Unity detaches and ignites its rockets to reach its suborbital destination.
The Galactic-02 crew also includes commander C.J. Sturckow, pilot Kelly Latimer, and Virgin Galactic’s astronaut instructor, Beth Moses. As Antiguans, the Mayers are the first female astronauts from the Caribbean. The Mayers won their seats via a drawing that raised funds for Space for Humanity, a non-profit aimed at providing sponsored trips for emerging world leaders to experience the Overview Effect.
“I cannot wait to go above the earth’s atmosphere and experience the different energy from here on Earth,” Keisha Mayers said in her Virgin Galactic astronaut biography. “To represent my island, Antigua, is truly an honor. I hope my journey will inspire others to reach for their dreams as well.”
Goodwin is also the second person diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease to ever travel to space, following astronaut Rich Clifford. Goodwin is an “early Virgin Galactic ticket holder,” according to the Virgin Galactic press statement.
Virgin Galactic’s first successful commercial flight took place on June 29, and served as a research mission for the Italian Air Force.