A Melbourn man’s dream of flying to space is one giant leap closer to reality following the success of Sir Richard Branson and Virgin Galactic’s world-first passenger spaceflight, Unity 22.
Scott Copeland, 52, who won the Virgin Australia Ultimate Upgrade to Space competition in 2014 and a seat on a future Virgin Galactic mission, is now officially part of the spaceline’s Future Astronaut Community.
The father of three adult children is set to follow in Sir Richard’s footsteps as one of Virgin Galactic’s early passengers.
Speaking from his home in Melbourne’s North East, Copeland, a senior-banker-come-astronaut, Copeland said he has been dreaming of entering space since he was in primary school.
“I still pinch myself every day that my dream of entering space is close to reality,” Copeland said.
“When I won the Virgin Australia competition in 2014, I committed to finding my primary school teacher from 1979 who at the time said I should reconsider my dream of flying to space. Remarkably, I was able to locate her 35 years later to share this incredible story.
“Dreams really do become a reality and my story is a testament to that. I can’t thank Virgin Australia and Virgin Galactic enough for changing my life.”
Since winning the competition, Copeland, who is a self-confessed “space enthusiast”, has travelled to the Mojave Desert in California to tour the Virgin Galactic facility with other future astronauts and see the spaceship VSS Unity.
To indulge in his passion for space travel, he has also visited the Johnson Space Centre in Houston, Texas, as well as the Kennedy Space Centre in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
In the early hours of Monday morning, the Unity 22 spaceflight mission kicked off, rocketing Branson through the atmosphere into space on VSS Unity, before safely returning to Earth, along with his fellow crew members.
“Congratulations to our founder Sir Richard Branson, Virgin Galactic, and the Unity 22 mission specialists on successfully opening space travel for all mankind,” Virgin Australia Group CEO Jayne Hrdlicka.
“Sir Richard’s success presents so much hope for all people around the world at a time where we need it most. Hope for humanity, hope for the future and hope to dream big.”
Hrdlicka said Velocity is the only frequent flyer program in Australia to award a member a ticket to space.
“We’re so proud that working with Virgin Galactic we have been able to make Scott’s childhood dream a reality for simply joining Velocity and flying with Virgin Australia,” she said.
A total of 600 people have independently purchased tickets on Virgin Galactic future passenger spaceflight missions, with more tickets expected to go on sale soon.