Shooting for the stars: The story of Lexy Snell at Virgin Galactic

Virgin Galactic team prepares for test flight
Virgin Galactic
Joanna Helm - author
by Joanna Helm
26 August 2021

Be yourself and go together, work hard and dream big. That is Virgin’s people promise. Virgin has long inspired its employees to believe in themselves and realise their potential. And in the case of Lexy Snell, shoot for the stars… literally. 

Lexy Snell is Assistant Crew Chief at Virgin Galactic on Virgin SpaceShip Unity, but she did not start out that way. Raised in the state of New Mexico, much of Lexy’s upbringing was spent moving around trailer parks. For years she was unsure of what she wanted to be in life but she knew she wanted to be something.

She said: “When I was little I wanted to be all sorts of different things. I had the generic plan of growing up, going to college, getting a job. I honestly didn't have specific dreams. Maybe that's why it took me a while to find my place. I think that's more common than people think and it should be shared. You don't always have to fit the ‘timeline’.”

Virgin Galactic
Virgin Galactic

Virgin Group Founder, Richard Branson, has always believed in giving people a chance: “In my experience, when you trust somebody and give them a chance, they will grow and thrive.” 

This perspective could not ring more true when it came to Lexy. All she needed was a chance.

At the age of 27 she enrolled in the aviation maintenance tech program at Central New Mexico Community College, a decision that, unbeknownst to her, would propel her towards the career of her dreams: “I was at a point where I needed to find my way out of my current situation so I could have a better life. My co-worker took me for a tour of the lab and as soon as I walked in I felt like I was supposed to be there. And so, for the first time, I took a leap of faith into something unknown and registered. And I never looked back.” 

Lexy was the only woman in her programme and became just the second to earn the Aviation Technology degree. When we asked Lexy how she managed to jump head first into a realm so foreign to her she described learning everything as “drinking from a firehose” yet fell in love almost instantly. This pursuit set her up for a dream internship at Virgin Galactic that led to an eventual full-time role in California. 

Virgin Galactic
Virgin Galactic

The rest is history. Lexy found her calling and has worked her way from intern to the company’s first woman “spacewrench” (the people responsible for making sure the spaceship is safe and ready to fly) to Assistant Crew Chief. She works each day with the rest of the brilliant crew from Virgin Galactic, a company full of talent and passion working towards a future of commercial spaceflight. 

Most recently she played a role in the company completing its successful Unity 22 flight on 11 July. The whole world watched as VSS Unity took to the skies and beyond with Richard Branson among the mission specialists on board.

“While it may be overused, the saying that we've all put our blood, sweat, and tears into this program is the most fitting,” Lexy said. “This work is very hard, and you have to have passion, dedication, and strong outside support to be able to do it. Unity 22 was a culmination of many years of very hard work, with lots of loss and lots of glory. It was extraordinary to finally hit such a huge milestone.”

Virgin Galactic at Spaceport America
Virgin Galactic

The spaceflight made world history and Lexy had her hand in it. 

Lexy’s advice for young people who find themselves in a similar situation as she once did is that you don’t always have to know where you are going or what you are meant to be. “Just work hard and take chances on yourself. Go outside the box if you have to. You'll be surprised with what can happen.”

Life is full of surprises and Virgin has made a habit out of expecting the unexpected. In giving power to its people the company has brought together a whole Virgin family of superstars like Lexy. “You never know what you can do until you try,” Lexy said of the opportunity Virgin gave her. “You might just go from trailer parks to spaceships.”

Read more stories like Lexy Snell’s in Virgin By Design’s 50-year history of the Virgin Group and its years of putting its trust in its people.