Keisha Schahaff, 46, and Anastatia Mayers, 46, earned the two $900,000 tickets in 2021 as part of a Virgin Galactic competition aimed at “sending more diverse humans to space and changing perspectives.”
The tickets were sent to Schahaff’s residence in Antigua by Virgin CEO Richard Branson.
“The health instructor and her daughter will be the first Caribbeans to travel to space.”
Mayers will also be the second-youngest person in history to enter space. Oliver Daemen was likewise 18 when he flew in July 2021 aboard Blue Origin’s New Shepard suborbital spacecraft.
The couple will board the VSS Unity on Thursday, which will launch from a launch pad in New Mexico at 8 a.m. local time (11 a.m. Eastern time) and go into space for 90 minutes as part of the Galactic 02.
Former 80-year-old Jon Goodwin, a former Olympic canoeist from Britain who suffers from Parkinson’s disease, will join Schahaff and Mayers. Goodwin, who was diagnosed with the condition in 2014, will be just the second person with Parkinson’s to go to space, according to Virgin Galactic.
Three additional passengers will be on board, all of whom are Virgin Galactic personnel, including the company’s principal astronaut instructor, Beth Moses, as well as C.J. Sturckow and Kelly Latimer.
Moses will be in the cabin of the VSS Unity with Schahaff, Mayers, and Goodwin, while Sturckow and Latimer will be behind the controls as commander and pilot, respectively.
Schahaff, Mayers, and Goodwin are presently enrolled in Virgin Galactic’s “Readiness Journey Program,” which prepares astronauts “physically, mentally, and spiritually” for space travel.
Schahaff has been posting updates on her preparations on social media. Schahaff’s most recent update, sent on Sunday, stated that she and her daughter had arrived in New Mexico.
The mission will be Virgin Galactic’s second commercial trip to space, after the successful launch of an Italian research team into orbit in June.
Similarly to the previous trip, Galactic 02 will use a carrier plane dubbed WhiteKnightTwo to take VSS Unity to roughly 50,000 feet in the air, when the “mother ship” will detach from VSS Unity and push the astronauts into suborbital space using its onboard rocket motor.
When the VSS Unity reaches space, the passengers will experience weightlessness and once-in-a-lifetime views of the Earth.
Since the first successful trip in July, Virgin Galactic has been providing monthly flights, however a waiting list of 800 people has already formed, implying that some aspiring astronauts may have to wait years to teeter on the brink of space.
Because of the high demand for extreme space flight, tickets have risen to $450,000 a seat.
The commercial flights follow a deadly test flight in October 2014, when a Virgin Galactic pilot was murdered and another was injured when the SpaceShipTwo space tourism vessel crashed in the California desert, killing one and injuring another.
However, Virgin Galactic has said that several safety precautions have been put in place after the sad accident in order to prevent history from repeating again.
Branson, the Virgin magnate with a net worth of roughly $3 billion, beat rival billionaire Jeff Bezos into space two years earlier, when he boarded his own company’s winged rocket ship with five crewmates.
Bezos, the Amazon founder who stepped down as CEO to focus on his Blue Origin space tourism venture, launched into space nine days later.
Blue Origin has since launched a number of passenger flights.
Virgin Galactic has been to space six times since 2018 and plans to launch 400 trips per year from Spaceport America once its next generation of rocket-powered planes is completed at a site in adjacent Arizona.
SpaceX, controlled by Tesla CEO Elon Musk, will be the first private business to deploy humans to the International Space Station in May 2020.
SpaceX, in collaboration with NASA, has offered multi-day suborbital journeys for $55 million each ticket.