Who is the crew on Virgin Galactic's space tourism flight?

Who is on Virgin Galactic’s space tourism flight? Meet the crew and passengers including mother and daughter duo Keisha Schahaff and Anastatia Mayers

  • The mother-daughter duo are the first Caribbeans to go into space
  • Former Olympian Jon Goodwin went into space with a Parkinson’s diagnosis

One of the biggest days in history is here, and the first flight for a paying ‘space tourist’ has blasted off into space.

Hundreds of tickets have been sold since they were put on sale by Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic firm over a decade ago.

Some buyers have forked out up to $450,000 for the opportunity to go into sub-orbit. 

Six crew members, three of whom are tourists, have made history after they were launched from New Mexico into orbit.

But who are the crew onboard the VSS Unity spaceplane? And who are the three tourists among them?

British Olympian Jon Goodwin (centre) joins mother and daughter Keisha Schahaff (right) and Anastatia Mayers (left) as the three tourists on VSS Unity this week

VSS Unity (pictured) is Virgin Galactic’s spaceplane used for commercial space flights. It first reached space as defined by the US (above 50 miles) in December 2018

Who are Keisha Schahaff and Anastatia Mayers?

Two of the tourists making up the crew are mother and daughter duo Keisha Schahaff and Anastasia Mayers.

Wellness coach, Schahaff along with her Aberdeen University student will be the first Caribbeans to travel into space according to People. Mayers, 18, will also become the second youngest person to travel into space.

The youngest person to go into orbit was Oliver Daemen, 18, in July 2021 via the Blue Origin rocket. 

READ MORE: READ MORE: When does Virgin Galactic’s first space tourism mission launch and who is onboard? All you need to know as mother and daughter join ex-British Olympian on historic trip this week

Ms Schahaff was flying via Virgin Atlantic from Antigua to London when an advert popped up for a competition for the trip.

She explained shortly after this she entered the Omaze sweepstake, she received messages informing her she was in the final 20, then top five and finally the winner of the entire competition.

Ms Schahaff told the BBC: ‘Suddenly, who’s walking into my yard? Richard Branson. The whole team just swarmed into my house saying ‘you’re the winner, you’re going to space’.’ 

The sweepstake raised $1.7million for the charity, Space for Humanity, which intends on making space more accessible, AfroTech reports.

Ms Mayers, who is second year philosophy and physics student, attributed their amazing luck of receiving the two free tickets – worth up to $450,000 (£350,000) a piece – to her decision to study in Scotland.

The aspiring astrobiologist said the big move to Aberdeen ‘led to magnificent things happening’.

She hopes that their will be support for the big event, and that it will break down barriers set by society for themselves.

Schahaff stated: ‘For me and my daughter together, it’s more than a dream come true.

‘This is my kid, I love her with all my heart, and to know that we both share the same goal, the same dream, that is super over the moon.’

Keisha Schahaff, 46, and her 18-year-old daughter Anastasia Mayers (pictured), will be the first mother and daughter ever to make a trip to space after winning the two tickets worth up to $450,000

After winning the sweepstake, Ms Schahaff said Richard Branson and co, swarmed her house with that magic sentence ‘You’re the winner, you’re going to space’

Jon Goodwin, 80, will be the second person with Parkinson’s disease to go into space. He will be the first ever Olympian

Who is Jon Goodwin?

Among the three tourist onboard the history making flight is British Olympian, Jon Goodwin. He competed as a slalom canoeist in the Olympic Games in Munich in 1972.

Virgin Galactic flights 

Ticket price: $450,000 (£360,000)

Takes off from: Spaceport America, New Mexico

Experience lasts: 90 minutes

Cost per minute: £4,000 

Can you float? Just, approximately 5 minutes of weightlessness

Good views? There are 17 windows to catch a glimpse of the Earth

Altitude: 50 miles (80km)

Craft: VSS Unity spaceplane

Passengers: Up to 6 plus 2 pilots

He will be the first ever Olympian to make the journey into outer space.

Since receiving his Parkinson’s diagnosis, the 80 year-old from Newcastle has been passionate about raising awareness surrounding the disease and research for a cure.

He will be the second person with Parkinson’s to go into space according to Virgin.

But the out of this world trip isn’t the only adventurous outing the former Olympian has been since his diagnosis in 2014.

He said: ‘From becoming an Olympian to canoeing between the peaks of Annapurna, to winning a six day race in the Arctic Circle, climbing Mount Kilimanjaro (and cycling back down), I’ve always enjoyed rising to new challenges.’ 

The father-of-two boys told BBC Breakfast the feeling of being on the verge of a trip he purchased 18 years ago for $250,000 (£194,500) was ‘completely surreal,’ adding that it was the ‘icing on the cake’ of a life filled with ‘exciting things’

He explained how he was ‘thankful’ to be cleared by Virgin Galactic to take part in the flight, as the sportsman feared his diagnosis could prevent him from doing so.

He also added how is wife is ‘fully supportive’ of his adventurous endeavors, whilst his two children won’t think his sub-orbit journey into space is unusual.

He said: ‘It was just to have the opportunity to do something very few other people have done – more people have climbed Everest than have gone into space.

‘So, I do hesitate on certain things, inasmuch as there’s no toilet on this rocket ship, I have to go back to wearing nappies which I can’t remember the last time I had a nappy on.’

Beth Moses, Frederick Sturckow and Kelly Latimer will be the Virgin Galactic staff guiding the three tourists 

Who else is on the Galactic 02 crew?

Among the three tourists, will be well experienced crew. This includes Virgin’s chief astronaut, Beth Moses will be on the flight.

She became the first woman in history to travel on a commercial spacecraft on the company’s Galactic 01 flight.

She is also in charge of training Schahaff, Mayers and Goodwin for the journey. This will be her fourth sub-orbit trip with Virgin Galactic, according to Space.com.

In the VSS Unity cockpit will be pilot Kelly Latimer and commander Frederick Sturckow – who also goes by CJ. 

Both possess several years of experience as pilots for Virgin Galactic and NASA.

READ MORE: What time is the Virgin Galactic launch? How can I watch it? Everything you need to know 

Ms Latimer was part of the cockpit on Virgin Galactic’s satellite launch in 2021. This was the company’s first successful launch of this kind. 

She has also been a research pilot with NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center. At this facility she spent countless hours flying various planes.

Stuckrow is just as seasoned as Latimer, with four space shuttle mission already in his bow. He was also a pat of the International Space Station’s first ever shuttle flight – the STS-88.

He had been an astronaut since 1995, but later hung up his uniform and retired in 2013. 

But his retirement was short-lived, as the experienced astronaut signed up to Virgin Galactic the same year. Similar to Ms Moses, he also worked on the Galactic 01 flight. 

Regarding the history making journey, Michael Colglazier, CEO of Virgin Galactic, said: 

‘This flight highlights two of Virgin Galactic’s core aspirations – increasing access to space and inspiring people around the world. 

‘Each of these astronauts are role models and beacons of inspiration in their communities. 

‘Watching Keisha, Ana and Jon embark on this transformative experience helps demonstrate that space is now opening to a broader and more diverse population across the globe.’ 

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