Virgin Galactic’s first space flight takes place in 2020 and will take scientist on board

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Virgin Galactic is working full steam ahead on the latest adjustments to the first space flight of its spacecraft that will one day take tourists into Earth orbit. The flight is expected to take place at the end of the North American fall (that is, at the end of spring here in the southern hemisphere, until mid-December this year), and will have two pilots, in addition to some research payloads inside the cabin. The company is working on rigorous processes to ensure the safety of the team with top priority, and we just learned who will be the first person on this maiden voyage – in addition to the pilots, of course.

At the beginning of the year, the company successfully managed to carry out a second manned test flight with the SpaceshipTwo vehicle, but there have been no trips to the space itself. Then, this next launch will be made by two test pilots on board. Depending on the performance of the flight, Virgin Galactic will have everything needed to begin commercial service next year for paying passengers – that is, tourists.

Among the passengers on the 2020 flight is dr. Alan Stern, planetary scientist who will be the first researcher to fly a Virgin Galactic commercial vehicle on a NASA-funded scientific mission. Stern is the researcher who leads the New Horizons mission and was selected by the Flight Opportunities program, also from the space agency, to conduct research on this flight. “This is the first selection by a private sector researcher to fly NASA in commercial vehicles,” he said.

The mission will be the first space flight for Stern, who was previously head of science at NASA and has been on 29 different teams of science missions in space during his career. “Going to space for the first time after spending so many years launching machines there to search for me will be the biggest highlight of my career, and I feel honored to be selected,” he said. He hopes that this is just the beginning of a flow of researchers carrying out studies in space in the coming years. During the flight, the scientist will conduct two studies: he will be using instruments that monitor his vital signs, and will use cameras to analyze the observation of space from inside the SpaceShipTwo cabin.

For all this, Virgin Galactic will use the WhiteKnightTwo, a plane that carries the SpaceShipTwo suborbital spacecraft. Then, when they are at an altitude of 15,000 meters, the SpaceShipTwo comes loose, activates the engine and enters suborbital space.

Brazil is also on board

The experience of going to space with Virgin Galactic will also be lived by two Brazilians. One of them is Felipe Hime, astronomer and content producer for the web. To participate in the trip, he started a crowdfunding campaign to raise the $ 1,000 for the One Small Step program, which puts him at the front of the line to reserve seats on the Virgin Galactic flight. The fundraising goal was reached, and whoever contributed to the campaign was added to the list of “close friends” on Hime’s Instagram profile, where he will share all the moments of the flight.

Besides him, businessman Marcos Palhares will also be on the trip and will be one of the first people to go to space through private initiative. In a publication on his website, the tycoon explains that he has been carrying out various training and simulations to become an astronaut. “I will be among the pioneers to reach space, and that has a lot of meaning,” he says. In addition, he points out that he will live intense and remarkable moments.

Counting from takeoff and return from space, the experience will last between 50 minutes and two hours. It is worth remembering that, within this period, SpaceShipTwo will shut down its engine for a few brief moments and passengers will experience the sensation of weightlessness for about four minutes. At this time, it will be possible to perform activities in microgravity while having a unique view of space and the Earth.

Source: TechCrunch, Space.com, Virgin Galactic, Marcos Palhares

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