Residents gather to support nation’s first astronauts’ historic journey

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By Latrishka Thomas

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Amidst a sea of vibrant red, gold, white, blue, and black flags, the Antigua Recreation Grounds became a canvas of national pride and unity, as residents gathered to witness an unprecedented moment in history: an Antiguan and Barbudan mother and daughter taking a trip to space!

Antigua and Barbuda, a very small nation, etched its name in the stars as two of its own embarked on a journey– a voyage to space on the first private Astronaut Mission, ‘Galactic 02’.

Keisha Schahaff, a 46-year-old health and wellness coach, saw her childhood dreams come true when she won two tickets worth $450,000 each from space tourism company Virgin Galactic through the Virgin Galactic and Omaze Sweepstakes.

Schahaff, determined to share this remarkable experience, gifted the second ticket to her daughter, 18-year-old Anatasia Mayers, who has aspirations of becoming an Astrobiologist.

Yesterday, the world watched the two women carve their names in history books, becoming not only the first mother and daughter duo to journey to space, but also the first individuals from the Caribbean to do so. Mayers also became the second youngest person ever to embark on this extraordinary expedition.

The impact of this momentous event rippled through the heart of Antigua and Barbuda, as hundreds of children and adults alike gathered in the spirit of camaraderie and support to witness their fellow countrywomen defy gravity.

A chorus of cheers erupted from the excited crowd, as the national astronauts lifted off from Spaceport America’s 12,000-foot runway in the New Mexico desert near White Sands Missile Range.

Among the jubilant voices, the sentiments of awe and inspiration reverberated. “It was really amazing,” exclaimed a toddler.

A woman shared the same feeling, but she was even more ecstatic than others as she explained that she was at the event almost four hours before its scheduled start time.

A young boy also shared his hope for his own space journey, while an older gentleman articulated the overwhelming sense of national pride that this achievement bestowed upon the twin island.

“Antigua just blessed. Antigua is small but its tallawah,” he stated.

For the youth, the journey of Schahaff and Mayers served as a beacon of possibility and a testament to the heights that they, too, can reach. As one adult put it, “this is a big motivation for young people in school, especially those who want to advance in science”.

Sir Richard Branson, the visionary founder of Virgin Galactic, expressed his hopes for even greater inclusivity in space travel.

“I hope that through the space for humanity programme — where people only have to pay five or 10 dollars to enter — that we’d be able to get more people from the Caribbean in the future,” he said.

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