3 private citizens launched to space and back on Virgin Galactic's Unity spacecraft

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Three private citizens launched into space and landed safely back on Virgin Galactic’s VSS Unity spacecraft, completing the company’s second spaceflight of 2024 and 12 missions to date. 

Virgin Galactic’s seventh commercial mission carried one researcher and three private astronauts, the company said on Saturday. Onboard were two pilots Nicola Pecile and Jameel Janjua. They were joined by Giorgio Manenti of Italy, Irving Pergament of New York, Anand Sadhwani of California and Tuva Atasever, only the second Turkish astronaut to fly in space. Atasever’s trip was sponsored by Axiom Space to do microgravity research.  

“Watching our pioneering spaceship Unity return from space on its final commercial flight was a breathtaking and proud moment as we celebrate the ship’s unprecedented achievements in human spaceflight and build momentum for the rollout of our first Delta Class ships in 2026,” said Virgin Galactic’s CEO Michael Colglazier. 

The flight took off from New Mexico at around 8:31 am local time and it landed little over an hour later. The carrier jet dropped the spaceplane at an altitude of 44,500 feet. The craft reached the speed of almost three times the speed of sound, according to the company. Atasever flew with headgear that has brain activity monitoring sensors and two insulin pens to test insulin administration in microgravity. 

“I am beyond grateful to have represented my country on ‘Galactic 07’ and conduct groundbreaking research that will impact future space missions,” Atasever said. “The successful completion of Ax-3 and now ‘Galactic 07’ is just the beginning of Türkiye’s space endeavors. May our people at home continue to be inspired and dream beyond the stars.”

The company will now focus on building its first Delta Class ships that are expected to be used commercially in 2026. Virgin Galactic was founded in 2004 by Richard Branson.

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