- Virgin Galactic completed its first space tourism flight yesterday.
- The three passengers onboard spent a few minutes floating weightless at the edge of space.
- Though brief, their experiences are similar to those reported by professional astronauts.
The three people who stepped aboard Virgin Galactic’s VSS Unity yesterday didn’t climb aboard to be known as astronauts. They did it to fulfill their dreams of flying, to reach into the heavens.
Even so, after their brief trip above our planet, which only lasted a few minutes, they reported experiences similar to seasoned astronauts.
These include feelings of awe looking down at the Earth below them, shock at the sheer force of the flight, and a desire to share their experiences with the rest of the world.
These are the first commercial passengers to fly aboard Virgin Galactic’s first private commercial spaceflight.
Though some space-goers have reported feelings of melancholy at seeing the little blue dot, Mayers said she felt more in tune with her earthly counterparts.
“I was shocked at the things that you feel. You’re so much more connected to everything than you’d expect to be,” she said. This overwhelming feeling has been reported since we first shipped astronauts to the moon.
“Orbiting Earth in the spaceship, I saw how beautiful our planet is,” said cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin after being the first human in space in 1961, according to the Washington Post. “People, let us preserve and increase this beauty, not destroy it.”
It seems the view makes for great existentialists out of us all.
Virgin Galactic’s mothership Eve taking its first space tourists on a rocket ship ride to the edge of space.
(AP Photo/Andrés Leighton)
Feeling out of control
The passengers also had other, less warm feelings. In the past, many astronauts have reported feeling a bit afraid during parts of their journey. The sheer force of spaceflight can feel intense while onboard.
Jon Goodwin, one of Virgin Galactic’s space tourists, recalled feeling this way as the VSS Unity began its return to Earth.
“The reentry was a lot more dramatic than I thought it would be. In fact, I would’ve said it was out of control if I didn’t know different,” Goodwin said during a press conference Thursday, following his return from the edge of space.
Charlie Duke, an astronaut for Apollo 16, had similar feelings during takeoff. “Is this thing working right? Is it supposed to shake this hard,” he recalled wondering, according to the Post.
Virgin Galactic’s ship at the edge of space.
Feeling like sharing
Keisha Schahaff, Mayers’ mother and one of Virgin Galactic’s space passengers, said that flying had always been her dream. In the post-flight press conference, she urged others to follow their own dreams, no matter how crazy they may seem.
In an interview with 50 different astronauts, the Post reported that an overwhelming majority wanted other people to be able to see what they had from above the Earth.
Living in what many call unprecedented times, the idea that there are still things that could unite us all may be a welcome one.