News Americas, NEW YORK, NY, Thurs. Aug. 10, 2023: Two Caribbean nationals today made history as the first female astronauts in space. In a remarkable leap forward for the burgeoning space tourism industry, Virgin Galactic achieved a momentous milestone with the successful launch of its VSS Unity rocket plane and the first tourist flight to space.
The spacecraft, carrying a diverse group of passengers, soared into sub-orbital space on Thursday, igniting enthusiasm and capturing the world’s attention. Among the passengers were Caribbean nationals Keisha Schahaff, a 46-year-old health and wellness coach hailing from the islands of Antigua and Barbuda; her 18-year-old daughter, Anastatia Mayers, a student of physics and philosophy at Aberdeen University, who was also born in Antigua, as well as Jon Goodwin, an 80-year-old former British Olympian who participated in the 1972 Munich Games as a canoeist.
The significance of their journey resonated deeply with both Caribbean women. They are also the first mother-daughter duo to go to space; the most women in space and the most women who have ever gone to space as well as the sixth and seventh Black women to go to space. Mayers is also the youngest person to ever go to space.
“That was like the most amazing thing I’ve ever done! Antigua went to space! A childhood dream has come true. I’ve been to space and back with my daughter. We’re making history, and this is just beautiful. The pilots, everyone, they delivered exactly what they said it would be. And if anyone was wondering, Earth is round!” exclaimed Schahaff, who won tickets to the space tour, upon landing.
Anastatia Mayers echoed her mother’s sentiments: “I have no words. The only thought I had the entire time was wow, that’s how I can sum up the experience. Just wow.”
This monumental voyage marked a significant achievement for Virgin Galactic, owned by entrepreneur Richard Branson. After years of rigorous test flights, the company has taken a crucial step toward commercial passenger service, offering a taste of weightlessness to those willing to pay the $450,000 ticket price.
The trio of passengers were accompanied by Virgin Galactic commander C.J. Stuckow, pilot Kelly Latimer, and chief astronaut trainer Beth Moses. As the VSS Unity rocketplane reached a maximum altitude of nearly 55 miles (88 kilometers), the passengers marveled at the breathtaking view and experienced several minutes of weightlessness.”
The flight, live-streamed from inside the spacecraft, showcased the passengers’ sheer excitement as they reveled in the awe-inspiring vistas and the unique sensation of weightlessness. The mission also marked C.J. Stuckow’s record eighth journey to space, an achievement spanning both the space shuttle and Virgin’s spaceplane.
With the VSS Unity spaceplane safely touching down at Spaceport America, the successful mission represents a leap towards making space tourism a reality for a broader audience. As Virgin Galactic aims to establish a regular schedule of flights, Branson’s vision of accessible space travel is taking tangible form, inspiring dreams of exploring the cosmos among individuals from all walks of life.
MICHAEL COLGLAZIER, CEO of Virgin Galactic said: “Today Virgin Galactic took another historic leap forward by flying our first private astronaut mission and demonstrating how our spaceflights will broaden access to space. Jon, Keisha and Ana each embody our fundamental belief that space is for everyone, and we are proud that today’s flight has inspired people and communities around the world. This is just the beginning, as we plan to continue flying monthly spaceflights while also developing our Delta Class production spaceships to scale our business.”
The company will now proceed with post-flight inspections and analysis in preparation for the next commercial space mission, ‘Galactic 03,’ which is planned for September in a continuation of Virgin Galactic’s monthly flight cadence.