12 April 2021

Beth Moses: International Day of Human Spaceflight

Beth Moses in Space-1600x900-1.jpeg

To celebrate International Day of Human Spaceflight, we asked Virgin Galactic Chief Astronaut Instructor and the world’s first female commercial astronaut, Beth Moses, for her thoughts on the modern space industry.

"Today the world commemorates the historic moment Yuri Gagarin became the first human to travel into space 60 years ago. It’s also an opportunity for us to reflect on the remarkable evolution that has taken place in the space industry since that historic flight, and to celebrate the blossoming space era we now live in.

Across the globe, the fascination with space is as strong as ever, driven by humanity’s inherent desire for new discovery and innovation. I feel incredibly fortunate to be playing a small part in this industry as history is being made all around us, and I salute everyone’s contributions to the mission to open space for more people.

That includes what’s happening here at Virgin Galactic, but also the work across the entire industry, across a portfolio of human spaceflight projects: suborbital flagships from two private companies are completing flight test programs, crewed orbital capsules from two countries are routinely launching and two others are imminent, my beloved International Space Station is entering her third decade of continuous human presence in low Earth orbit, private companies are testing systems to settle the Moon and Mars and, in stark contrast with their wartime roots, the space agencies of several advanced nations have announced crewed programs to explore our celestial neighbors in peaceful partnership with their terrestrial neighbors. As a species, we’ve come a long way from the moment that a solitary national hero flew a victory lap around Earth and begat the space age. We now also clasp hands across our differences and step off our home planet together, in peace.

Of course, when I look to the skies later, I’ll also reflect on my own experience of working in space as a mission specialist on Virgin Galactic’s second spaceflight. At apogee, the spaceship coasted to a complete stop, I was totally weightless, unstrapped, and hovering behind the pilots, miles and miles above the Earth, completely captivated by the view. It was the most magical moment of my life and there are no words to adequately express the feeling it gave me. It’s an experience that I can’t wait for thousands of astronauts to live out over the next few years, and I’m excited to help prepare those who’ll be flying with Virgin Galactic.

I’m glad that all those who complete a spaceflight with Virgin Galactic will also be recognized by the Association of Space Explorers. It’s an honor to be recognized by an organization which counts so many pioneers of space exploration among its members. I’m looking forward to working with them to continue to inspire and educate people around the advantages of seeing the world’s problems from the perspective of space.

When I started writing this blog, I was interested to know how others who are with us on this mission to open space would be marking this special day, so I reached out to Richard Branson, Michael Colglazier, CJ Sturckow, Chris Hadfield, and Sandy Magnus for their thoughts;"

Sir Richard Branson, Founder, Virgin

"I have dreamed of experiencing the view of Earth from space ever since I watched the moon landings as a child. Today, we celebrate International Day of Human Spaceflight with the commercial space industry on the cusp of turning my dream, and thousands of others, into a reality by regularly flying private astronauts into space. This is the dawn of a new space age and I feel even more passionate about the future of space travel now than I did when Neil Armstrong first walked on the moon."

Michael Colglazier, CEO, Virgin Galactic

"Many believed sending a human into space and returning them safely was impossible. Yuri Gagarin did it in 1961. Nine years later, NASA landed humans on the moon. Thirty-one years after that, the global space community opened the ISS, a world class science lab, orbiting Earth at 17,500mph. This year, NASA landed a robot on the surface of Mars again, and in the years ahead, thousands of people will become private astronauts and experience the life-changing view of earth from space. International Day of Human Spaceflight is a reminder that through collaboration and teamwork we can accomplish anything."

CJ Sturckow, Virgin Galactic Pilot and Astronaut and Former NASA Astronaut

"Today we celebrate curiosity, leadership, commitment and vigour of those who dedicated their lives to space exploration and made it a reality. On this day, I am thinking of our comrade Yuri Gagarin’s extraordinary achievement, and the first US space shuttle mission ever, which brought many astronauts into space. I am grateful for all the milestones our industry reached and recognize the sacrifices made in pursuit of spaceflight. We’ve come a long way, and it is our responsibility to make these historic achievements count and change the future by opening space for all.”

Chris A. Hadfield, Former CSA Astronaut, Virgin Galactic Space Advisory Board Member

"Spaceflight is hard and magnificent, and worthy of recognition. It allows us to clearly see our world in a whole new way. April 12 is the 60th anniversary of an immensely brave man who forged our way into the unknown, Yuri Gagarin, and I respect and honor him for it. Every astronaut since then, from Al Shepard to the international Soyuz crew that launched to the space station last week, has followed in Yuri’s footsteps. The technology of Virgin Galactic is opening an experience like the one Al Shepard had to a whole new group of space flyers. As a former President of the Association of Space Explorers, I welcome all astronauts, past, present and future, to make the most of the experience, revel in the pure joy of it, and then share the perspectives and lessons that come with it, far and wide."

Sandy Magnus, Former NASA Astronaut and Virgin Galactic Space Advisory Board Member

"60 years ago today human kind left the confines of our planet, expanding our awareness and perception of our world, and embarking us on a journey that changes our relationship to the cosmos. Every year since the number of humans experiencing this unique perspective has increased; a trend that is only going to accelerate. As more people have the opportunity to share this shift in perception, the whole planet will benefit."




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.




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 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).




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.