Winnipegger ready for liftoff


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A British billionaire’s successful trip to the edge of space has left one Winnipegger over the moon about the ticket she purchased to get aboard his rocketship.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 14/07/2021 (564 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A British billionaire’s successful trip to the edge of space has left one Winnipegger over the moon about the ticket she purchased to get aboard his rocketship.

“It seems much more feasible now to go up in space,” said Judy Anderson, a self-described amateur astronomer who made a down payment on such a voyage via Virgin Galactic Holding Inc. (SPCE-N) more than 10 years ago.

“It never occurred to me that I would actually go, but it was a dream that I might feel weightlessness and see the curvature of the Earth and see the black sky.”

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Judy Anderson, a Winnipegger who has made a down payment for a spot on billionaire Richard Branson's spaceship, with a model of the Virgin Galactic rocket plane in Winnipeg on Tuesday.

On Sunday, Anderson and her husband sipped tea at home as they excitedly watched Richard Branson take off in a vessel nearly two decades in the making.

The expedition was a reminder of the ticket the couple has been saving up for since they put down $20,000 towards a US$200,000 ticket for a ride in December 2010. Anderson has been the proud owner of Virgin Galactic ticket No. 623 ever since.

Following the down payment, which they paid after thorough research into Branson’s pitch to develop a space tourism program, the duo created a plan to set aside funds for the trip they both hoped would someday happen. If the voyage were to be cancelled, they would receive a partial refund. Anderson, however, said they have always been confident in Branson as an astute businessman.

“We just budget properly and it wasn’t a sacrifice. We didn’t gallivant everywhere in the world all the time, but we did take holidays and we chased solar eclipses,” said Anderson, a professor emeritus of biological sciences at the University of Manitoba.

Citing the duo’s financial plan, which includes home-cooking habits, and their good fortune in having well-paying jobs and more recently, two “reasonable pensions,” Anderson said she and her husband are on track to afford her full ticket to space when she gets the call a trip date has been set.

The 69-year-old said she has been preparing by staying in shape physically and mentally. About seven years ago, she partook in a research project in a centrifuge in Pittsburgh to get experience with the acceleration astronauts feel at takeoff.

“It was the best roller-coaster ride you could ever have in your life. I was totally excited. I was totally grinning, ear to ear,” she recalled.

Anderson traces her fascination to the thrill of her family celebrating Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin’s trip as the first human in outer space. On that spring evening in 1961, Anderson and her parents dusted off their telescope and observed the sky from their home in Vancouver.

She would follow subsequent space expeditions with great interest throughout her lifetime. In the 1990s, she even applied to work with the Canadian Space Agency, but was cut from the roster of potential astronauts after several rounds of vetting.

When Virgin Galactic launched a website to promote “a trip of a lifetime,” Anderson said she could not stop thinking about it.

Her excitement prompted her husband — who she said is even more of a space enthusiast but selflessly willing to let her take the trip because two tickets would come at an exorbitant price — to suggest she sign up.

Anderson said she hopes her trip will take place before she turns 80. She expects the US$200,000 ticket will get her a round trip much like the one Branson took Sunday, which lasted approximately an hour.

When asked about critics’ concerns with the emissions associated with space tourism, Anderson suggested she has made many tradeoffs in her lifetime, is an active composter, and believes strongly in the value of scientific research.

“This is a lot of fuel, for sure, but if you think about what benefit comes from going into an area like the moon or Mars, the benefit isn’t only that you get there,” she said. “The benefit is all the things you learn along the way that then can be used in other places, at other times.”

Twitter: @macintoshmaggie

Maggie Macintosh

Maggie Macintosh

Maggie Macintosh reports on education for the Winnipeg Free Press. Funding for the Free Press education reporter comes from the Government of Canada through the Local Journalism Initiative.

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