Earlier this year in July (2021), the founder of Virgin Galactic Sir Richard Branson flew to space on a Virgin Galactic flight – making him the first billionaire in space, beating Jeff Bezos (founder of Blue Origin and Amazon). Upon his return, a raffle was announced which would see the winner get two tickets to go to space with the company.
Virgin Galactic, founded in 2004, currently sells tickets starting at $450,000. The flights take passengers above 80 kilometres (around 262,000 feet) which is recognised in some countries such as the United States as the boundary of space.
In the announcement, Virgin Galactic revealed the raffle drew donations from 164,338 people since it began and raised a projected $1.7 million in grants to be given to Space for Humanity and their Citizen Astronaut Program.
The winner of the raffle is confirmed to be Keisha S. from Antigua and Barbuda. Keisha will be the first astronaut from the area and she revealed that she plans to take her daughter with her on the flight. She has said:
“I’ve always had a lifelong love of flying and a fascination with space, and this is truly a dream come true for me,” said Keisha. “It means the world to me. I hope to share this experience with my daughter, so together we can inspire the next generation to follow their dreams.”
Along with winning the two tickets to space, Keisha will also receive a guided tour of Spaceport America in New Mexico from Sir Richard Branson.
It is currently unknown when the flight will be taking place. Virgin Galactic recently announced a delay to the launch of its commercial space flights, pushing the date back to Q4 2022 after revealing the start of planned refurbishment work on its spacecraft and carrier aircraft, which will take between 8 to 10 months. This means the earliest any flights make take place would be around mid-2022.
Sir Richard Branson has said:
“Being able to give people of all ages and backgrounds equal access to space, and in turn, the opportunity to lead and inspire others back on Earth, is what Virgin Galactic has been building towards for the past two decades,”
Not only is Virgin Galactic advancing quickly with civilian space flights, but other companies such as SpaceX and Blue Origin are also making space tourism a reality and 2021 has been a year where they have all launched successful flights with civilians on board.