Virgin Galactic's next crewed spaceflight will include eight people, six of whom will make it to suborbital space.
Virgin Galactic will send its next crew to space no earlier than Thursday (May 25) at 10 a.m. EDT (8 a.m. MDT) from Spaceport America in New Mexico. The events will not be livestreamed, but you will likely be able to follow along live on Virgin Galactic's Twitter feed.
This will be the fifth time that Virgin Galactic has flown to space, and the first since July 11, 2021, a mission that featured billionaire Virgin Group founder Richard Branson as one of the passengers. The company has been upgrading, and then testing, its VSS Unity space plane and VMS Eve carrier aircraft for the last two years or so.
Unity takes off under the wings of Eve, which releases the space plane at an altitude of roughly 50,000 feet (15,000 meters). Unity then fires up its rocket motor to go even higher, beyond 50 miles (80 kilometers) — high enough, by some definitions, to reach space.
Virgin Galactic has said that this flight, known as Unity 25, will be the last test ahead of starting commercial service. Unity 25 will carry four passengers and two pilots to suborbital space, with two other individuals piloting Eve. Read more about the crew below.
Photos: The first space tourists
Mike Masucci, VSS Unity commander
Mike Masucci is commander of VSS Unity on the upcoming flight. He has flown since 1982 on 80 types of aircraft, with accumulated experience of 10,000 flight hours.
The main types of vehicles he has flown include the U-2, F-16, T-38 and Citation X. Masucci has made multiple spaceflights with Virgin Galactic, with his first being the February 2019 flight that took crewmember Beth Moses, who's also flying on Unity 25, to space for the first time.
C.J. Sturckow, VSS Unity pilot
C.J. Sturckow is the pilot of VSS Unity. He's a former NASA astronaut who flew on four space shuttle missions between 1998 and 2009: STS-88, STS-105, STS-117 and STS-128.
Sturckow has flown since 1984 on 65 types of craft — principally the F/A-18, T-38 and the space shuttle — and has racked up 8,700 hours of experience. Sturckow was aboard the first Virgin Galactic flight to pass the U.S. definition of space at 50 miles (80 km) on Dec. 13, 2018, and he has made multiple spaceflights with Virgin Galactic
Jameel Janjua, VMS Eve commander
Jameel Janjua is the commander of VMS Eve on Unity 25. He has been flying since 1995 on 60 types of aircraft, principally the CR-18, F-16, Tornado GR4 and F-15. He has a total flying experience of 4,800 hours.
Nicola Pecile, VMS Eve pilot
Nicola Pecile is the pilot of VMS Eve. He has been flying since 1991 on 170 types of aircraft, principally the Tornado FMK.3 ADV and NH-500E. His total flying experience is 7,700 hours.
Beth Moses, crew
Beth Moses, Virgin Galactic's chief astronaut instructor, is performing her third spaceflight with the company. She joined Virgin Galactic in 2016 and is the person responsible for the astronaut training program.
Moses is the first woman to fly to space aboard a commercial space vehicle. She also holds bachelor's and masters degrees in aeronautical and astronautical engineering from Purdue University.
Christopher Huie, crew
Christopher Huie, mission specialist, joined Virgin Galactic in 2016 as a flight sciences engineer. He is the son of Jamaican immigrants and hails from Florida. He will become the 19th Black astronaut, according to Virgin Galactic numbers.
Huie holds a bachelor's degree in aerospace engineering from the University of Maryland and is co-founder of Virgin Galactic's Black Leaders in Aerospace Scholarship and Training (BLAST) program.
Luke Mays, crew
Luke Mays, astronaut instructor, joined Virgin Galactic in 2023 following work at NASA in training astronauts. He has 25 years of aerospace experience and holds multiple degrees: a bachelor's of mechanical engineering from the University of Texas and a masters degree in aerospace engineering from the University of Colorado, Boulder.
Jamila Gilbert, crew
Jamila Gilbert, mission specialist, joined Virgin Galactic in 2019. Gilbert is a Latina woman with Purépechan-Mexican roots. She is from New Mexico and will be flying into space from a location — Spaceport America — just one hour from her hometown. She studied linguistics, anthropology and studio art at New Mexico State University.
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Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for Space.com for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: https://qoto.org/@howellspace