Virgin Galactic’s first private astronaut mission

Virgin Galactic
Virgin Galactic
Headshot of Greg Rose
by Greg Rose
17 July 2023

Virgin Galactic’s seventh spaceflight and second commercial spaceflight, 'Galactic 02', will fly three private passengers, including the first Olympian and first Caribbean astronauts, to space.

VSS Unity will carry Jon Goodwin, an 80-year-old, Olympian and early Virgin Galactic ticket holder, as well as Keisha Schahaff and Anastatia Mayers, a Caribbean mother-daughter duo who won their seats in a draw that raised funds for non-profit Space for Humanity.

The dynamic and multi-national crew highlights the role the commercial space industry can play in removing barriers that once existed to becoming an astronaut. To date, fewer than 700 people have travelled to space, with little diversity among that group. Virgin Galactic’s mission is to change that – beginning with an 800 strong Future Astronaut community that represents more than 60 different nations.

The 'Galactic 02' mission will achieve a number of historical milestones, showcasing the power of each Virgin Galactic spaceflight to help redefine who gets to be an astronaut. VSS Unity will fly:

  • The first astronauts from the Caribbean

  • The first mother-daughter duo to go to space

  • The first Olympian to go to space

  • The second youngest person to go to space

  • The second person with Parkinson’s to go to space

Jon Goodwin is an 80-year-old adventurer and the first Olympian to travel to space having competed in the 1972 Munich Games. Diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2014, Jon will be only the second person to travel to space with the condition.

Virgin Galactic
Virgin Galactic

Keisha Schahaff is a 46-year old mother of two daughters, entrepreneur and health and wellness coach from Antigua and Barbuda. She is the beneficiary of two spaceflight seats in a historic draw which raised $1.7 million in grants for non-profit Space for Humanity, and she is passionate about empowering women to live their best lives.

Anastatia Mayers, the second youngest person to travel to space, is an 18-year-old university student who was born and raised in Antigua and Barbuda. She is in her second year at the University of Aberdeen studying Philosophy and Physics. Together with Keisha, the two will become the first mother and daughter to travel to space together.

Virgin Galactic
Virgin Galactic

Beth Moses, Chief Astronaut Instructor, will fly with the crew to assess the inflight experience while continuing to refine Virgin Galactic’s training program. Beth was the first woman to fly to space aboard a commercial space vehicle, earning her FAA commercial astronaut wings in 2019. 'Galactic 02' marks Beth’s fourth flight to space with Virgin Galactic.

VSS Unity will be piloted by commander CJ Sturckow and pilot Kelly Latimer. Mothership VMS Eve will be piloted by commander Nicola Pecile and pilot Mike Masucci.

Beth Moses
Virgin Galactic

Virgin Galactic CEO Michael Colglazier said: “This flight highlights two of Virgin Galactic’s core aspirations – increasing access to space and inspiring people around the world. Each of these astronauts are role models and beacons of inspiration in their communities. Watching Keisha, Ana and Jon embark on this transformative experience helps demonstrate that space is now opening to a broader and more diverse population across the globe.”

Jon Goodwin, Astronaut 011, said: “From becoming an Olympian to canoeing between the peaks of Annapurna, to winning a six day race in the Arctic Circle, climbing Mount Kilimanjaro (and cycling back down), I’ve always enjoyed rising to new challenges. When I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2014, I was determined not to let it stand in the way of living life to the fullest. And now for me to go to space with Parkinson’s is completely magical. I hope this inspires all others facing adversity and shows them that challenges don’t have to inhibit or stop them from pursuing their dreams.”

Virgin Galactic
Virgin Galactic

Keisha Shahaff, Astronaut 012, commented: “When I was two years old, just looking up to the skies, I thought, ‘How can I get there?’ But, being from the Caribbean, I didn’t see how something like this would be possible. The fact that I am here, the first to travel to space from Antigua, shows that space really is becoming more accessible. I know I will be changed by my experience, and I hope I will be able to share that energy and inspire the people around me – in my role as a life coach, a mother, and as an ambassador for our beautiful planet.”

Rachel Lyons, Executive Director of Space For Humanity, said: “Beholding Earth from the vantage point of space bestows upon astronauts an awe-inspiring perspective, referred to as The Overview Effect, that transcends boundaries and unites humanity. It is this transformative perspective that holds one of the keys to tackling our world’s most pressing challenges. At Space For Humanity, our purpose is to grant as many individuals as possible access to this life-altering viewpoint, not only for the betterment of our civilization’s future, but also to confront the urgent needs of our world today. This profound awareness underscores our collective responsibility to treat one another with greater kindness, and to safeguard and cherish our home planet - the irreplaceable cradle of our existence.”

'Galactic 02' will be livestreamed on Head over to the website to find out more.