Virgin Galactic's chief astronaut instructor, Beth Moses, received her commercial astronaut wings from the Federal Aviation Administration yesterday (April 9), making her the first woman to earn the honor.
Moses was a "test passenger" aboard Virgin Galactic's second spaceflight on Feb. 22, which soared to an altitude of 55.87 miles (89.9 kilometers). The three-person flight team, which also included chief pilot Dave Mackay and lead pilot trainer Mike "Sooch" Masucci, received their commercial wings together, becoming the fifth, sixth and seventh people to receive these wings.
Moses' job during the brief microgravity portion of her flight was to evaluate how future space tourists would feel and to move around the cabin while feeling weightless. She later said in a video that she spent part of this time "spidermanning along the ceiling."
"Once the rocket motor cut off, they cleared me to unstrap from my seat, and I unstrapped from my seat, evaluated various aspects of the cabin, and then strapped back in for entry. And it all went smoothly and just according to timeline," she said in the same video clip.
Virgin Galactic is preparing for passenger flights by conducting test runs of its spacecraft, the VSS Unity. The vehicle first breached the U.S. Air Force-defined boundary of space on Dec. 13, reaching an altitude of 51.4 miles (87.4 km). Both of Unity's spaceflights are still below the Karman line, which the International Astronautical Federation uses to define the start of space, at 62 miles (100 km).
Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson has said he hopes to fly on July 16, 2019, the 50th anniversary of the launch of Apollo 11, the first mission to land humans on the moon. After Branson, there are hundreds more people waiting in line to experience microgravity and see the curvature of Earth. Tickets currently retail for $250,000 apiece.
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