Virgin Galactic has announced the winner of its sweepstakes with the top prize for a free suborbital space ride on a rocket-powered aircraft.
The lucky winner is Keisha S., a health and life coach and former flight attendant from Antigua in the Caribbean. The prize includes two seats – each worth $450,000 – so Keisha will take her daughter, a student studying astrophysics, along.
With the aim of squeezing as much hype out of the sweepstakes as possible, Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson, who did a test flight aboard the company’s VSS Unity rocket plane in July, delivered news of the prize to Keisha personally.
a happy keisha said: “I’ve always had a lifelong love of flying and a fascination for space, and it’s really like a dream come true for me.”
She continued: “I look forward to sharing this experience with my daughter so that we can inspire the next generation to follow their dreams.”
So what kind of experience awaits Keisha and her daughter? Well, the journey will begin with Ekta attached to the VMS Eve carrier aircraft. Eve will fly to an altitude of about 50,000 feet (about 15,000 meters) before leaving Unity, which will then fire its rocket to detonate the aircraft and passengers at an altitude of about 283,000 feet (about 86,000 meters). They will then experience a short period of weightlessness where they can float around the cabin and enjoy incredible views of the earth. A gentle descent would end with a runway landing.
No date has been set for the flight, though it’s unlikely until late 2022 at the earliest as Virgin Galactic is conducting further tests on Eve and Unity.
The sweepstakes was organized by fundraising platform Omaze and ran from July to September. Entrants were asked to donate to the non-profit Space for Humanity.
More than 164,000 people from around the world entered the contest, with the total donation totaling approximately $1.7 million.
The proceeds will benefit Space for Humanity’s civilian astronaut program which is designed to provide a way for more people to experience space travel.
But what exactly constitutes space travel is a subject of ongoing debate, with Virgin Galactic and rival space tourism provider Blue Origin disagreeing over where Earth’s atmosphere ends and space begins.
Either way, the experience offered by both companies is one a traveler can dine on for many years after returning to terra firma.