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The first woman to fly commercially into space describes her historic flight



On February 22, the passenger spacecraft VSS Unity by Virgin Galactic climbed into the sky over the Mojave Desert in California during a test flight, carrying a kind of driver that has never been seen before. On board the vehicle was Beth Moses, the first passenger the Unity had flown. Together with the two pilots of the aircraft, the trio climbed to a height of 89.8 kilometers – which many consider the beginning of space.

The short flight qualifies Moses for commercial astronaut wings of the Federal Aviation Administration. And now she is the first woman to fly into space with a commercial vehicle.

After the groundbreaking test flight, we met with Moses to learn something about seeing the curvature of the Earth and in the real world Space to experience weightlessness. We also wanted to know how she would use this flight to enhance the future customer experience of Virgin Galactic. The company, which promises fast flights to the edge of space, has sold hundreds of tickets to paying customers on VSS Unity. And as the chief astronaut trainer at Virgin Galactic, Moses will be responsible for coaching hopeful passengers for the flight she has just experienced.

This interview has been easily edited for the sake of clarity.

I understand that you already have a lot of experience with Zero G flight. How was your training until the last flight?

Before I was sent on this flight, I spent many years with NASA and five years with Virgin Galactic. Through these two roles, I have researched weightlessly in parabolic aircraft and made experiences with high G-values ​​both in aerobatic aircraft and in centrifuges. I also did a lot of extreme environmental testing when checking the International Space Station hardware. Things like human thermal vacuum vacuum testing, pressure line testing, neutral buoyancy testing, the nature of the entire industrial environment of test environments. So that was the background that allowed me to quickly train for this particular location. When I went to this special flight, I brought with me some of this experience.

What did it feel like when you found out that you would be on the flight?

I was very happy. [Laughs]

What has brought your training to prepare for this mission?

I am the astronaut trainer at Virgin Galactic. Therefore, the part of the flight was to test the training program that will please our customers. And it was really fun! In my opinion, it was in some ways the best of both worlds, because I was able to construct a good test of what I had done in my career before and train myself with some of the experts here at Galactic, like our pilots and our medical staff.


VSS Unity with Ignited Engine
Image: Virgin Galactic

Of course, our customers are not trained to do any specific test or task; You can just have fun. But it was a great mix of using my past, doing a good test, and then looking ahead to what it would be like to train our clients.

Can you comment on the specifics of the test that resulted in the test?

I looked at the store's cabin inventory, and our pilots had flown so well that I was able to clear the field when I reached space and left my seat. Part of what I looked at was how to get up from your seat and sit back in your seat. So I left my seat, not just once, but twice to test it out.

And then I too At certain times in the flight profile, it was about different areas of the cabin to find out where to look best in the cabin, what the views look like and how the cabin has moved around you. Because when you are no longer in your place, the vehicle is still moving. I've looked at things like our colors and our surfaces, and how does it all work to deliver a truly seamless spatial experience. I had a strict timeline of where I should be and what I should evaluate and how I should do it.

What went through your head before you came to weightlessness, during the descent and then the ascent into space?

I Remember exactly as we ascend into space, just remembering that we would climb so pure. In fact, I said that. Most of my assessments were about the camera, and I kept saying, "Up! We still go up We still go up! "And I was very excited. It was just amazing.


Beth Moses with the pilots Dave Mackay and Michael "Sooch" Masucci
Also, it crossed my mind that Dave [Mackay] flew perfectly straight for me Pilot simulator I can see the horizon when the ship turns in space a little bit. But in real flight, the car never turned because Dave really did fly. And so I could not catch a glimpse of the horizon. So it was pure black right away. I felt like in space when we set the rocket engine on fire. It was just amazing. I loved it.

Describe the experience of being in space. We all saw this picture of you staring out of the window in awe.

It was just magical and almost indescribable.

I was fortunate to fly there and did the day I did. I felt that the earth is so beautiful, but even more so than you can describe or imagine. I happened to fly on a day when we had snow in the mountains in the southwestern United States. And I vividly remember that glimpse of glittering white mountain peaks, the blue Pacific, and the green of the earth. I recently told someone that I felt like the earth was carrying diamonds for us that day because it was so shiny and sharp.

It just took my breath away. It was wonderful. I hope everyone can see it.

It's so funny you say that because when I talked to Virgin Galactic pilot Mark "Forger" Stucky, he said the same thing. He was surprised how spicy it was. It was like a high-resolution screen for him.

Absolutely, and it was so noticeable. And I thought, I felt infinitely high. They know that the earth was so curved and the ocean was so massive. I felt as though we were being hung on the world from God's perspective. It was just sharp and nice.

I often hear that when talking to astronauts. You have this overview effect. Do you feel that you have a different perspective now that you have seen the world from above?

I think that will settle over time. I feel much more connected to myself and the people around me and planet Earth. I am one of those half-open people, people who are good, people who are kind on earth. And that's what I feel all the more.


Beth Moses celebrates after the flight with the two pilots Dave Mackay (L) and Mike & # 39; Sooch & # 39; Masucci (C) as well as with Virgin Galactic boss George Whitesides (R) [19659013] Image: Virgin Galactic

I think the biggest thing that's happened in the last week is that I'm dealing with all the little things of life very relaxed. The bottom line is that after my space flight in the future, I'm much more relaxed and optimistic about humanity. I do not know if this is the overview effect, and it certainly was not a miraculous epiphany. It was just a kind of slow start to reality.

But I'm very thankful for that and thankful for the flight. And I think the more people see it, the better we'll all be.

Based on your experience – and what you felt and did in the cabin – how do you intend to use that to shape future astronaut training? What concrete possibilities do you hope to shape this training in the future?

As a very specific example, I did not expect ice crystals to be on the back of the rocket nozzle, which flake off when you come to space. And I had never heard or noticed that consciously. I think it was probably recorded and put in debriefing, but it had not hit me in my ear yet. And something that fell out of my window was that little piece of ice that flows past the window. And I want to make sure that our customers expect that and that's normal. This is not a small piece of the ship that falls off. It's just ice cream from the rocket nozzle.

I can now take my first-hand experience and say, "Hey, you guys, you notice that out the window. It is wonderful. You will notice. You may wonder what it is. It's just a piece of ice. It is normal. Enjoy it. "

Then I'll take time estimates from the video next. One of the reasons why I got up twice and returned to my place twice was to understand very well how long that lasts and how it was done to get it into practice. For example, when should people start to return to their seats? It is a very valid question. We tested that on the ground, and we tested it in parabolic planes, but we have never really done it in space in our ship.

And how often will you fly again? Will other employees also call?

Of course I would like to fly again. But our goal is to enable many, many people to fly. And it's not just my own opinion about the cabin and the procedures that are important. It is also the opinions of other people. We will continue to put people into the cabin in our flight program to rate the cabin. I do not know what the plans are, whether I could be one myself or not.

I want as many people as possible to see and feel what I've seen and felt because it's really magical.

What does this flight mean to you personally? You are now the first woman to fly into space with a commercial vehicle. How does this title feel?

I'm really proud to be part of this industry. I've been an aerospace engineer throughout my career and it feels good to do a job that's important to me as well. And I think everyone who has a job or a background in business can be part of the aerospace industry. So I greet everyone. I think there is a place for everyone.

I do not consider myself to be terribly special. I mean, people have asked me this question before, and that's an awkward question because I'm just doing my job to the best of my ability. I consider myself an engineer doing a job. I do not think engineers are pink or blue. I think we are just engineers. I think we only solve the problem.

How do you feel about a young girl who has watched your flight and wants to do what you do? Do you feel that little girls with big dreams might have an influence?

Oh, absolutely. I hope that our flight and my participation in the flight encourage everyone who wants to be part of the industry. Because this industry is very inviting to everyone, and I would hope that everyone would like to see the flight and participate if they are inclined to.


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