#spacecheetah Virgin Galactic blog
- Oct 24, 2011
#spacecheetah competition winner Renae Smith guest blogs on Virgin Galactic's spaceport event and meeting Richard Branson...
It was still a little dark when I headed downstairs at 5.45am to go to the Hotel Encanto where we all had to register for the Virgin Galactic Gateway To Space event. Entering the big function room, there were tables set up segregated by lines for future Astronauts, Space Agents, and Guests. The room was buzzing. I joined the guest line, registered then grabbed a coffee and toasted a quick bagel before hopping on a bus to the Spaceport. The sun slowly crept up over the mountains as we ventured further and further into the desert, it was so peacefully beautiful.
After about an hour we seemed to be off the main stretch of road as we started to wind our way through the mountains, and there was a flurry of excitement inside the bus as someone said they saw the Spaceport in the distance. Now all glued to our windows, we watched the magnificent structure getting larger as we got closer, it almost seemingly appeared as though it was rising up out of the ground.
We turned around one last major corner and it was then that we were looking at it straight up the middle. It was an amazing sight. Off the bus we walked around to the right of the curved building and I remember being struck with goosebumps as WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo come finally came into full view.
Everyone was so excited and you couldn’t help but get caught up in the buzz and the ongoing snapping of pictures. The glass panels of the back of the building curved around to a full view of the runway whilst also revealing the striking reflection of WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo. A quick glimpse and it would be easy to mistake it for another normal aircraft, however you soon realise that it is so much more. To think that soon it will be launching people into space was still hard to comprehend, but utterly amazing.
Food and drinks were on offer although it was hard to venture away from the barriers and take your eyes off the space craft. Sir Richard Branson then appeared on a small stage along with Governor Susana Martinez and we were introduced to the day's events. Our attention was quickly whipped back in the direction of the space craft as the noise of it's engines whirs and we see it take to the skies. The crowd was again a buzz but with roars of excitement and as we watched it soar through the bright blue skies above, I was in awe. I tried to trace it with my camera clicking constantly, it was in my view for quite some time, but then I lost it and soon after it flew straight over head which gave us a great view of the underneath. As it came into land the barriers were moved closer and official pictures were taken with Sir Richard, his family and the test pilots. Even though it was right before my eyes, it was all still very surreal.
We soon headed into the Spaceport building for the dedication ceremony where the CEO and President George Whitesides was first to speak introducing us to the building and the history of how far the program had come. We were introduced to the many people who have been involved from the designing and building of the Spaceport through to 150 of the 450 future astronauts as well as learning of schools and research facilities that are also going to be taking part in future flights. It was then that the full magnitude of the event hit me and I felt overwhelmed with a sense of being a part of something truly special. It’s was an unbelievable feeling just being there.
We were ushered back outside to glasses of champagne where we all made our way to stand behind a small stage where the official naming of the building was to take place. To that point it had already been an amazing day, seeing the WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo in action was a definite highlight however as we stood there for some time anticipation was building and I couldn’t help but feel as though there was one last thing that Sir Richard had in store.
With the crowd becoming thicker closer to the stage, I happen to look up to see ropes draped over the outside of the building and I thought ahhh here we go! A small group of about five people dressed in red, known as The Project Bandaloop 360 propel themselves halfway down and are dancing on the outside of the building the glass looking spongey with every landing! It was very cool! Then Sir Richard Branson along with Holly and Sam propelled themselves over the building and join the group. Unreal. Sir Richard was the last one to propel down officially naming the new building ‘Virgin Galactic Gateway to Space’ with a big bottle of Champagne.
It was then that I had a chance to meet with Sir Richard Branson, which was beyond unreal. I was so nervous, an entrepreneur who I have always admired but never ever imagined in my wildest dreams that I would ever get to meet, it was a very surreal but exciting moment. He even allowed me to have a walk around WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo to get a close up view which capped off what was truly an amazing day, one that I will never forget.
To be there to be a part of history, something for our generation and the generations to come will always be something very special.