06 April 2022

37th Annual Space Symposium – Michael Colglazier Reflections Blog

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Each year, the Space Symposium, hosted in Colorado Springs by the Space Foundation, brings together the top leaders, innovators, experts, and engineers from across the space ecosystem. It’s an opportunity to examine space issues from multiple perspectives, promote dialogue, showcase innovation, and focus attention on critical industry issues. And it’s a time to celebrate our shared successes


Douglas S. Morrow Public Outreach Award

On Monday, I had the honor of accepting the Space Foundation’s Douglas S. Morrow Public Outreach Award on behalf of the incredible team at Virgin Galactic. The award is named in memory of the late Douglas S. Morrow, renowned Academy Award winning writer and producer, space advocate and former Space Foundation board member – and it recognizes efforts to increase public awareness and understanding of space programs and technology.

To me, that is what 2021 was all about. Last year alone saw five commercial human spaceflights carry 24 passengers to space. Our own Unity 22 mission made history as the first crewed spaceflight by a commercial company. The level of public interest and excitement in this progress is palpable. To date, more than 31 million people have watched the livestream and video clips of our Unity 22 crew floating around the cabin in zero gravity.

That’s because what we are doing speaks to the deep-rooted human desire to explore, to reach higher and to see further than ever before. Opening space opens the imagination. And receiving this award affirms our vision for the world’s first commercial spaceline that breaks down the walls to progress, deepens our understanding of the world and brings us closer together through a shared experience.


FAA Astronaut Wings Awarded to Unity 22 Crew

We were also proud to see members of our first fully crewed spaceflight, the Unity 22 mission last July, receive their FAA astronaut wings.

Three of our mission specialists, Sirisha Bandla, Colin Bennett and Sir Richard Branson, were awarded wings by Associate Administrator for Commercial Space Transportation Kelvin Coleman in an evening ceremony we hosted on Tuesday.

Our fourth mission specialist, Beth Moses, and our incredible Unity 22 pilots, Dave Mackay and Michael Masucci, had already received their astronaut wings at the Space Symposium in 2019.

The six Unity 22 crew members hold a special place in history. Not just as astronauts or as pioneers of the early commercial space industry, but as ambassadors who are giving voice to the unimaginable wonder of space. In doing so, they are inspiring the next generation of dreamers. The wings ceremony gave us a moment to reflect on the experience, almost nine months on, and I want to share with you what they had to say:

“Spaceflight is not just a trip to space. It’s an experience and a journey that starts well before the rocket lights. It changes your perception and your view with respect to life on Earth. I remember as we returned back to Earth, I couldn’t help but wonder who is going to be sitting in this seat after me. I had no idea; it could be anyone. And then it hit me. It could be anyone. And that is incredible and exciting.” – Sirisha Bandla

“The overwhelming amount of beauty that I saw when I looked out of the window at apogee was equaled by the expressions of joy and astonishment that I saw when I looked back inside the cabin. And just when I thought the day couldn’t get any more awesome, I was joined on stage by my wife and two-year daughter, who now says she’s going to be an astronaut too - and I believe her. We have our foot in the door now, and I can't wait for us to push it wide open for so many more people to step through and experience space for themselves. They have something truly special awaiting them.” – Colin Bennett

“One of the things I am most excited about for our Future Astronauts is that as well as going to space, you come back to Earth with a new purpose, and with dear friends who shared in the experience of a lifetime with you. I hear from so many people excited about becoming an astronaut one day. This is especially true of young people. My beautiful grandchildren were very much in my mind as we flew to space – “Papa going to the moon!” they cheered at me. They were the first to greet us when we touched back down to Earth. My message from space was to inspire the next generation of dreamers – and that mission continues today. As the saying goes, if you can see it, you can be it.” – Richard Branson


Diversity Pledge

For the commercial spaceflight industry to be successful, we must create models and practices that are sustainable and accessible – so that every person inspired by our mission can one day realize their own potential. We believe that space belongs to us all. And that starts with advancing diversity and inclusion on the ground – within our workforce, and our broader industry community. The diversity of perspectives and experiences is critical to our future success, and I am committed to creating an inclusive culture to fuel innovation as we pursue our mission to make space accessible to all.

Virgin Galactic is proud to join 24 other space organizations as charter signatories of a first-of-its-kind industry pledge to advance diversity across our collective workforce in the years ahead. The pledge commits all signed companies to regularly report data on diversity, share best practices and work with schools and universities to increase the number of diverse and underrepresented students ready to join the space industry upon graduation. These efforts will help us achieve our stated goal to significantly increases the number of women and employees from underrepresented groups in our collective workforce by 2030.

This pledge is an important first step towards a new era of greater diversity in the space sector.

2022 is going to be an amazing year. More to come!

GEORGE WHITESIDES

GEORGE WHITESIDES

SPACE ADVISORY BOARD CHAIR

George T. Whitesides is the Chair of the Space Advisory Board, where he is responsible for bringing together aerospace leaders to advise the Virgin Galactic senior management team on the journey towards regular commercial spaceflight, developing the next generation vehicles and exploring new opportunities. Previously, George served as the Chief Space Officer of Virgin Galactic, spearheading the development of future technologies, including high speed, point-to-point travel and orbital flight, after stepping down as CEO in 2020.

George joined Virgin Galactic in 2010 as Chief Executive Officer. During George’s 10 years with the Company, he built the company from 30 people to a workforce of over 900, successfully guiding Virgin Galactic through its human space flight R&D and flight test program, culminating in two space flights. These historic flights saw the first humans launched into space from US soil since the retirement of the Space Shuttle, as well as the first woman to fly on a commercial space vehicle. George led the transition of operations from Mojave, California to Spaceport America, New Mexico, and oversaw the company’s successful public listing making it a multi-billion dollar company and creating the world’s first publicly traded human spaceflight venture.

Prior to Virgin Galactic, George served as Chief of Staff for NASA. Upon departure from the American space agency, he received the Distinguished Service Medal, the highest award the agency confers.

George’s volunteer service includes Caltech’s Space Innovation Council, Princeton University’s Advisory Council for Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, and the Antelope Valley Economic Development & Growth Enterprise. He is a fellow of the UK Royal Aeronautical Society and an associate fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

He previously served as Vice Chair of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, chair of the Reusable Launch Vehicle Working Group for the FAA’s Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee, a member of the Board of Directors of Virgin Galactic, a member of the Board of Trustees of Princeton University, co-chair of the World Economic Forum’s Global Future Council on Space Technologies, and the Board of Virgin Unite USA. George has testified on American space policy before the United States Senate, the United States House of Representatives, and the President’s Commission on Implementation of United States Space Exploration Policy. An honors graduate of Princeton University’s School of Public and International Affairs, George later earned a master’s degree in geographic information systems and remote sensing from the University of Cambridge, and a Fulbright Scholarship to Tunisia. George is a licensed private pilot and certified parabolic flight coach.

He resides in California with his wife Loretta and two children.

CHRIS HADFIELD

CHRIS HADFIELD

SPACE ADVISORY BOARD MEMBER

Colonel Chris Hadfield is a heavily decorated astronaut, engineer, and test pilot who has commanded the International Space Station. Formerly NASA’s Director of Operations in Russia and veteran of three spaceflights, Hadfield’s many awards include the Order of Canada, the Meritorious Service Cross and the NASA Exceptional Service Medal. Hadfield is a three-time NYT bestselling author, a renowned musician, an adjunct professor at the University of Waterloo, chair of the board of the Open Lunar Foundation, and host of several internationally acclaimed television series. In addition, Hadfield leads the space stream at the Creative Destruction Lab, one of the world’s top tech incubators.

DR SANDRA MAGNUS

DR SANDRA MAGNUS

SPACE ADVISORY BOARD MEMBER

Dr. Sandra H. “Sandy” Magnus is the Principal at AstroPlanetview, LLC. Most recently she served as the Deputy Director of Engineering in the Office of the Secretary of Defense for the Undersecretary of Research and Engineering. In that role she served as the “Chief Engineer” for the Department of Defense establishing engineering policy, propagating best practices and working to connect the engineering community across the department.

Dr. Magnus is the former Executive Director of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA). Prior to leading AIAA, she was a member of the NASA Astronaut Corps for 16 years. During her time at NASA she flew in space on the STS-112 shuttle mission in 2002, and on the final shuttle flight, STS-135, in 2011. In addition, she flew to the International Space Station on STS-126 in November 2008, served as flight engineer and science officer on Expedition 18, and returned home on STS-119 after four and a half months on board.

Following her assignment on Station, she served at NASA Headquarters in the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate. Her last duty at NASA, after STS-135, was as the deputy chief of the Astronaut Office.

While at NASA, Dr. Magnus worked extensively with the international community, including the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), as well as with Brazil on facility-type payloads. She also spent time in Russia developing and integrating operational products and procedures for the International Space Station.

Before joining NASA, Dr. Magnus worked for McDonnell Douglas Aircraft Company as a stealth engineer. While at McDonnell Douglas, she worked on internal R&D and on the Navy’s A-12 Attack Aircraft program.

Dr. Magnus has received numerous awards, including the NASA Space Flight Medal, the NASA Distinguished Service Medal, the NASA Exceptional Service Medal, and the 40 at 40 Award (given to former collegiate women athletes to recognize the impact of Title IX).

DAVID A. WHELAN

DAVID A. WHELAN

SPACE ADVISORY BOARD MEMBER

Dr. David A. Whelan is the SVP Chief-Scientist of Cubic Corporation. Dr. Whelan retired from Boeing in 2017, as the Vice President, Engineering (BDS) and Board of Directors for HRL Laboratories. Whelan served as Director of the Tactical Technology Office of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and began his career at Northrop as designer of the B-2 Stealth Bomber. Whelan is a member of the National Academy of Engineering, a fellow of the American Physical Society and IEEE. He earned his Ph.D. Physics from UCLA; He holds over 75 US patents.