Virgin Galactic Has Successfully Launched Its First Tourists Into Space

Virgin Galactic had its first commercial space flight in June 2023 with its Galactic 01 mission. The flight contained three paying Italian Air Force members and over a dozen research payloads. This was seen more as a scientific mission than a private one. Today, Virgin Galactic announced that its first private astronaut flight, the Galactic 02, took to the skies and successfully made it back. The launch took three private citizens into space on the VSS Unity via New Mexico at approximately 8:30 a.m. Mountain time. According to Virgin Galactic, the 60-minute flight achieved an altitude of 44,300 feet at release and a max speed of 3 Mach. 

Among the passengers was life coach Keisha Schahaff who won a ticket for the trip through a fundraising event. Accompanying her was her daughter Anastatia. The successful trip makes them the first Antigua and Barbuda astronauts, as well as the first mother and daughter duo, to make it to space. The third private astronaut on board was former British Olympian Jon Goodwin, making him the first Olympian in space and the second astronaut with Parkinson's. Before the trip, Goodwin said that he hoped his accomplishments could showcase that his "obstacles can be the start rather than the end to new adventure."

Virgin Galactic's next flight will happen next month

When discussing the trip, the CEO of Virgin Galactic, Michael Colglazier, stated that the company made "another historic leap forward ... demonstrating how our spaceflights will broaden access to space." Virgin Galactic noted that this puts it on track for making these space trips a monthly occurrence, with the next mission (called Galactic 03) scheduled to take off in September. Although the CEO noted that "space is for everyone," you'll have to shell out at least $450,000 to get a ticket. That's almost twice as much as an OceanGate ticket.

Though the flight was notable for both its success and its milestones, this wasn't the first time private astronauts took a trip into space. For example, "Star Trek" actor William Shatner joined Jeff Bezos on a flight to space in 2021. In that same year, the billionaire business magnate and founder of Virgin Galactic, Richard Branson, took to the stars on his own joyride. The company has since been conducting flights to get commercial space travel up and running — and these efforts have, naturally, spurred government authorities into action.