I woke up on Friday morning and reached straight for my phone, keen to see if Virgin Galactic had flown their latest test flight and how it had gone. We’d been advised that the ‘window was open’ from Thursday morning Mojave time, but as always while the team and the spaceship may be ready, there’s never a guarantee that the weather gods will play their role. Not only had they flown, but they’d flown safely, successfully, and reached space for the first time – the ultimate early Christmas gift for everyone involved!
This flight also saw a significant shift in the sharing of information publicly in real time, with the team live tweeting the progress of the craft plus images of both the flight itself and the reactions of those on the ground in Mojave watching. I sat there with tears streaming down my face, overwhelmed with the emotion that I felt not so much for what it meant for my own eventual journey to space (although seeing those views of the earth from space, and knowing that I would ultimately be seeing those same views myself was pretty incredible!), but for Richard and his family, and the teams at Virgin Galactic and The Spaceship Company.
Seeing a dream come to fruition is an incredible thing, and the tenacity, persistence and resilience that it has taken to deliver on this particular dream is nothing short of extraordinary. We have been fortunate enough to get to know many of those involved and to call them our friends, and my tears where pure joy for the exhilaration that they must have felt in seeing all of those years of hard work come to fruition.
There’s still work to be done before commercial passenger travel can begin, the remainder of the test flight program has to be completed, and the team will make the move to New Mexico, but it was a huge step to validate that the spaceship can safely and successfully make it to space. All day Friday one of the songs that had been a key part of our soundtrack at the Future Astronaut gathering on Necker Island a few weeks ago kept running through my mind (no it wasn’t Thunderstruck or All I Want for Christmas, although they were also on high rotation!). It was Queen’s ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’, and in particular these lyrics:
Two hundred degrees
That’s why they call me Mister Fahrenheit
I’m traveling at the speed of light
I wanna make a supersonic man out of you
I’m having a ball
Don’t stop me now’
When Stuart bought me the ticket to space for Christmas I never could have imagined how amazing ‘the journey to the journey’ would be. We’ve formed so many great friendships with fascinating people from all over the globe, and we’ve already shared so many fun times and incredible experiences together. That ultimate journey is now closer than ever before, and in the words of Queen ‘don’t stop me now, I’m having such a good time!’