On August 10, Virgin Galactic sent its first tourists into space. The space mission, known as Galactic 02, lasted about 15 minutes and reached 55 miles high. 

Virgin Galactic mission in the air
Photo Credit: Virgin Galactic

About the First Trip

The three tourists, alongside Virgin Galactic’s astronaut trainer and two pilots, took off on the company’s VSS Unity plane from the Spaceport America airport in the New Mexico desert. VMS Eve transported VSS Unity until it reached an altitude of about 44,300 feet, which is when Unity was dropped. Unity then fired its own rocket motor and ascended to suborbital space. Passengers aboard experienced approximately 3Gs.

The tourists were Keisha Schahaff and Anastatia Mayers, a mother-daughter duo from the Caribbean, and Jon Goodwin, a former Olympian who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. The mother-daughter duo earned their seats on the flight from sweepstakes that Virgin Atlantic was holding on their commercial flights. Goodwin, on the other hand, was among the first 50 customers to buy a Virgin Galactic ticket in 2005. He later was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, which caused the company to expedite his trip. 

As well as becoming Virgin Galactic’s first private astronaut spaceflight, the mission marked many other firsts. For example, the mission achieved the most women flown in a single space mission, the youngest person to go to space, the first majority female spaceflight, and the first Olympian to go to space. 

Space tourists on the Virgin Galactic mission flight
Photo Credit: Virgin Galactic

Space Tourism Industry

Even though Galactic 02 was Virgin Galactic’s first mission with ticketed customers, it was the company’s seventh trip to space since 2018. Notably, Richard Branson, the company’s founder, was aboard the first full-size crew ride in 2021. The company is now gearing up for its next commercial space mission, Galactic 03, which is planned for September. 

These missions will now reportedly launch on a monthly flight cadence. About 800 people are currently on the waiting list, with the price tag of a flight starting at $450,000.

Other companies have joined Virgin Galactic in the pursuit of space tourism. Blue Origin, for example, has launched 31 people into space so far. Like Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin sims for the fringes of space. 

SpaceX, on the other hand, sends flying customers all the way to orbit. It’s already flown three private crews into orbit. This experience will cost you much more though; the current price for a seat on a SpaceX flight is tens of millions of dollars.