Virgin Galactic Flies Third Crew Member


Virgin Galactic sent its first passenger to the edge of space Friday although it wasn’t a paying customer. The company’s astronaut trainer Beth Moses rode in the passenger cabin of the spacecraft Unity on the flight Friday morning from the company’s base at Mojave, California. “Beth Moses is on board as a crew member,” a Virgin Galactic spokeswoman said as the flight commenced. “She will be doing validation of some of the cabin design elements.” Making sure the cabin works is fundamental to the success of the venture, which now has 600 customers waiting to take the short trip to about 60 miles high.

Friday’s flight didn’t quite make it to the 62 miles generally considered to be start of space but at 55.9 miles the flight was good enough to make astronauts out of pilots Dave Mackay and Michael “Sooch” Masucci. The U.S. considers anyone to have flown 80 kilometers (49.70 miles) high or higher to be astronauts and there are only about 600 who qualify. Unity also carried four NASA-funded experiments as part of the agency’s Flight Opportunities Program.