Virgin Galactic: Sir Richard Branson's space tourism flight successfully completes trip

ITV News' Sam Holder has the latest on Virgin Galactic's first space tourism flight completing its first trip

Virgin Galactic's first "space tourism" flight to the edge of space has successfully landed safely back on earth.

The three tourists onboard included a former British Olympian who bought his ticket 18 years ago and a mother-daughter duo from the Caribbean.

Jon Goodwin, 80, from Newcastle-under-Lyme, described the experience as “completely surreal” and “very moving”.

Speaking at a press conference after the flight, Mr Goodwin, who became just the second person with Parkinson’s to enter space, said: “It was far more dramatic than I imagined it would be.

“It was the pure acceleration – Mach 3 in eight-and-a-half seconds – (that) was completely surreal, and the re-entry was a lot more dramatic than I imagined.

“In fact, I would’ve said it was out of control if I didn’t know anything different. But it was a completely surreal experience.

“The most impressive thing was looking at Earth from space – the pure clarity was very moving. Without a doubt the most exciting day in my life.”

Mr Goodwin added the flight “exceeded my wildest dreams” and hoped it would inspire others with Parkinson’s to do things out of the ordinary.

Anastatia Mayers, Jon Goodwin and Keisha Schahaff are on-board the space plane. Credit: Virgin Galactic

The crew, which included the three tourists, left New Mexico Spaceport just after 3.30pm (BST) on the VSS Unity and mothership VMS Eve, in what Virgin Galactic called a "perfect take off".

After completing a series of checks, the mission control centre gave the okay and the rocket was released from the mothership at 4.20pm, at an altitude of roughly 44,500ft.

Moments later footage from inside Unity showed the passengers out of their seats, weightless and peering at the Earth through the windows.

At its highest point the Unity got to 55 miles above Earth and the flight successfully landed at New Mexico Spaceport just after 4.30pm (BST).

Further footage from cameras mounted on the outside of Unity showed the curvature of the Earth.

It travelled towards space at 1,000km per hour.

Richard Branson's company is to begin offering monthly trips to customers on its winged space plane, joining Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin and Elon Musk's SpaceX in the space tourism business.

Ticket prices were $200,000 (£150,000) when Mr Goodwin signed up, but the cost is now as high as $450,000 (£350,000).

Mr Goodwin was joined by Keisha Schahaff, 46, a health coach from Antigua, and her daughter, Anastatia Mayers, 18, student at Scotland's University of Aberdeen.

The two women, who won their seats in a prize draw, are the first people from the Caribbean and the first mother-daughter duo to go up towards space.

Ms Schahaff said: “I’m still up there, I’m not here yet, and it’s just amazing that you can land so smoothly on the runway coming back from space.

“It was so comfortable, it was really the best ride ever, and I would love to do this again.”

Two pilots and the company's astronaut trainer was also onboard.

Virgin Galactic's first commercial space flight took place in June. Credit: AP

The flight was Virgin Galactic's seventh trip to the edge of space since 2018, and its first with a ticket-holder.

Branson, the company's founder, was onboard for the first full-size crew ride in 2021.

Two months ago, Italian military and government researchers soared on the company's first commercial flight.

About 800 people are currently on Virgin Galactic’s waiting list, according to the company.

Branson tweeted that he was in Antigua and Barbuda to watch the flight take off.

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