A health coach from Antigua and Barbuda has won two tickets worth nearly US$1 million to be among Virgin Galactic’s first space tourists — and plans to take the trip of a lifetime with her teenage daughter.
Keisha Schahaff, 44, said that she wanted to cross the final frontier with her 17-year-old, a science student living in Britain who dreams of one day working for NASA.
Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson surprised Schahaff with the news at her home in the Caribbean at the beginning of this month.
“I just thought I was doing a Zoom interview,” she said. “When I saw Richard Branson walking in, I just started screaming. I couldn’t believe it.”
“I always was interested in space as a little girl,” she added. “This is a great opportunity for me to feel alive and to just make the greatest adventure ever.”
Schahaff won the prize after entering a fundraiser sweepstakes organized by Virgin Galactic on the Omaze platform.
The US$1.7 million that was raised is to be donated to Space for Humanity, a non-government group that works for wider access to space.
The amount that she donated was not made public, but entry started with a minimum contribution of US$10.
Schahaff, a health and energy coach who works in particular with women, decided to take a shot at the prize after seeing an advertisement on a Virgin Atlantic flight.
“I just filled out the application, did what was required ... not realizing that I would have actually gotten a response to it,” she said.
The campaign attracted nearly 165,000 participants in eight weeks, Virgin Galactic said in a statement.
The announcement aimed to show that space tourism is opening up opportunities for a variety of people, despite prices remaining well beyond the reach of most.
“Being able to give people of all ages and backgrounds equal access to space, and in turn, the opportunity to lead and inspire others back on Earth, is what Virgin Galactic has been building towards for the past two decades,” Branson said.
The British septuagenarian flew in his company’s test mission to space in July, beating by a matter of days Blue Origin owner Jeff Bezos in their billionaire space race.
Schahaff will be among the first of Virgin Galactic’s space tourists, but her place in the line has yet to be determined, a company spokesperson said.
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