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Virgin Galactic’s first space tourists finally soar, an Olympian and a mother-daughter duo

TRUTH OR CONSEQUENCES, N.M. (AP) — Virgin Galactic rocketed to the edge of space with its first tourists Thursday, a former British Olympian who bought his ticket 18 years ago and a mother-daughter duo from the Caribbean.

The space plane glided back to a runway landing at Spaceport America in the New Mexico desert, after a brief flight that gave passengers a few minutes of weightlessness.

This first private customer flight had been delayed for years; its success means Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic can now start offering monthly rides, joining Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and Elon Musk’s SpaceX in the space tourism business.

“That was by far the most awesome thing I’ve ever done in my life,” said Jon Goodwin, who competed in canoeing in the 1972 Olympics.

Goodwin, 80, was among the first to buy a Virgin Galactic ticket in 2005 and feared, after later being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, that he’d be out of luck. Since then he’s climbed Mount Kilimanjaro and cycled back down, and said he hopes his spaceflight shows others with Parkinson’s and other illnesses that ”it doesn’t stop you doing things.”

Ticket prices were $200,000 when Goodwin signed up. The cost is now $450,000.

He was joined on the flight by sweepstakes winner Keisha Schahaff, 46, a health coach from Antigua, and her daughter, Anastatia Mayers, 18, a student at Scotland’s University of Aberdeen. They high-fived and pumped their fists as the spaceport crowd cheered their return.

“A childhood dream has come true,” said Schahaff, who took pink Antiguan sand up with her. Added her daughter: “I have no words. The only thought I had the whole time was ‘Wow!’ ”

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