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What to know about Virgin Galactic’s first mission taking paying customers to space


(NEW YORK) — Virgin Galactic is launching its first mission carrying paying customers on Thursday just weeks after the company’s first flight in June.

Galactic 02 will launch from Spaceport America in New Mexico at 9:00 a.m. MST (11:00 a.m. EST), which will be livestreamed.

The spaceflight company, founded by British businessman Richard Branson, will have six people on board, with three of them being regular civilians.

The mission will also make history with the first Olympian in space as well as the first Caribbean astronauts and the first mother-daughter duo in space.

Onboard is Jon Goodwin, 80, who competed in the 1972 Munich Games as a canoeist. Goodwin has Parkinson’s and will be the second person with the disease to go to space.

“For me to go to space and defy Parkinson’s is hopefully inspirational to all people,” he said in a promotional video published two weeks ago.

The ship, VSS Unity, will also carry Keisha Schahaff, 46, and Anastatia Mayers, 18, a mother-daughter duo from the Caribbean. They won their seats in a drawing raising funds for the nonprofit Space for Humanity.

Mayers is a college student studying philosophy and physics at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland and will become the second-youngest person to travel to space.

The company says its goal is to take paying customers to the edge of space, in a similar vein to Jeff Bezos’s company Blue Origin.

Flying with them will be Beth Moses, chief astronaut instructor at Virgin Galactic, to measure the inflight experience. VSS Unity will be piloted by commander CJ Sturckow and pilot Kelly Latimer.

Meanwhile, VMS Eve, which is the “mothership” carrier for VSS Unity, will be piloted by commander Nicola Pecile and pilot Mike Masucci.

In 2021, Virgin Galactic received approval from the U.S. government to take customers on spaceflights.

Galactic 01, the company’s first mission, carried four passengers, all from Italy, on its suborbital flight, about 50 miles above Earth. They included two members of the Italian Air Force, an engineer with the National Research Council of Italy and an astronaut with Virgin Galactic.

The crew conducted 13 experiments including measuring cosmic radiation and thermo-fluid dynamics including whether certain liquids transform into gases at high altitudes.

Other experiments were related to human vitals — examining how circadian rhythms are affected by microgravity, studying any changes in the cells that line blood vessels and comparing heart and skill MRIs before and after the flight.

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