Above: Beth Moses. Photograph Courtesy of Virgin Galactic.
BETH MOSES CAN'T REMEMBER a time when she wasn’t dreaming of space and being an astronaut. In college, she embarked on studies to become an aerospace engineer. “I was extremely dedicated to my dream,” she says.
Born in Chicago and raised in the nearby suburb of Northbrook, Moses studied at Purdue University, graduating with a BS and an MS in aeronautical and astronautical engineering. She then worked at the NASA Johnson Space Center, in Houston, where the International Space Station was ramping up. “It was being at the right place at the right time,” she says.
Later, she joined Virgin Galactic as the inaugural chief astronaut instructor and, on February 22, 2019, made history. Moses embarked on her first test flight, becoming the 571st person initiated into space and the first woman on a commercial space flight. Now her chief focus is preparing civilians for space travel at a to-be-determined date. Soon she’ll relocate to New Mexico’s Spaceport America—the world’s first purpose-built commercial spaceport, near Upham.
For me, human spaceflight has always been a shining beacon of inspiration. What’s more exciting than space? I was the little girl who built insane machines from blocks, logs, and Erector Sets.
My space flight on the VSS Unity gave me the unprecedented opportunity to evaluate firsthand the passenger experience for future Virgin Galactic customers. That is my role—to design, evaluate, and ultimately train passengers on what to expect in space. My time in suborbital space and my brief stint with zero gravity gave me insights impossible to have gathered from a drawing board or office. My flight was a milestone.
A fellow astronaut reflected on the parallels of my experience with Ed White, when he became the first American to spacewalk. He flew on Gemini 4, conducting suit and hardware testing that became the pathfinder for all future spacewalks.
Virgin Galactic offers commercial flights to the edge of space. We’ve already presold more than 600 future bookings on the VSS Unity, at $250,000. Of course, Sir Richard Branson, founder and chairman of Virgin Galactic, will be the first commercial passenger.
I’ve had a lot of experience with zero-G flight through my years at NASA and at Virgin Galactic. I’ve done weightless research in parabolic aircraft and high-G exposure in aerobatic aircraft and centrifuge experience. My tool set includes things like human thermal vacuum testing, pressurized line testing, and neutral buoyancy testing.
I can say that engineering persistence trumps personal, cultural, or gender factors. What matters is your engineering skill, common sense, courtesy, persistence, and dedication to the shared mission. Being in the right place at the right time, with a good attitude and a technical solution to a common problem—that’s the whole ball game. Because engineers don’t come in pink or blue.
And space isn’t just for pilots, engineers, and scientists, either, as the entire industry needs a multitude of talents and skill sets. Commercial space needs those in law, art, construction, project management, medicine, materials science, and just about anything you can think of. So it’s not just pilots but also poets that will be going to space.
With my first commercial space flight behind me, I’m looking forward to relocating to New Mexico and working at Spaceport America to train our future space travelers. As a foodie and spa girl, I’m also looking forward to experiencing New Mexican cuisine and green chile. I visited Ten Thousand Waves, in Santa Fe, an exhilarating yet relaxing spa experience. Albuquerque’s International Balloon Fiesta is also on my list.
I feel honored to be part of a team opening up space travel to everyone. All filters are removed when you see Earth from 55 miles up in space. Everything comes in high definition. It’s like Earth is wearing her diamonds.
I really believe that if more people see Earth from space, it will be transformative. In space, we are all humans and share the endeavors of mankind. It’s the magic of space that can unite us all.