The space plane glided back to a runway landing at Spaceport America in the New Mexico desert, after a brief flight that gave passengers a few minutes of weightlessness.
This first private customer flight had been delayed for years; its success means Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic can now start offering monthly rides, joining Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and Elon Musk’s SpaceX in the space tourism business.
“That was by far the most awesome thing I’ve ever done in my life,” passenger Jon Goodwin told the crowd after his flight.
Goodwin, who was among the first to buy a ticket in 2005, said he had faith that he would someday make the trip. The 80-year-old athlete — he competed in canoeing in the 1972 Olympics — has Parkinson’s disease and wants to be an inspiration to others.
Ticket prices were $200,000 when Goodwin signed up. The cost is now $450,000.
He was joined on the flight by sweepstakes winner Keisha Schahaff, 46, a health coach from Antigua, and her daughter, Anastatia Mayers, 18, a student at Scotland’s University of Aberdeen.
“A childhood dream has come true,” Schahaff said. Added her daughter: “I have no words. The only thought I had the whole time was ‘Wow!’ ”
With the company’s astronaut trainer and one of the two pilots, it marked the first-time women outnumbered men on a spaceflight, four to two.
It was Virgin Galactic’s seventh trip to space since 2018, but the first with a ticket-holder.