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A question and answer with Beth Moses, the first passenger ever on Virgin Galactic's spacecraft




Moses, an aerospace engineer who is the chief of astronaut instructor at Virgin Galactic, became the first woman to receive the commercial astronaut designation from the US Air Force after her plane landed in February.
That's when she flew aboard the company's rocket-propelled aircraft, and cycled in the cabin behind the two pilots of the craft. It was the company's second test flight to reach the edge of space. The craft traveled at a speed of over 2,300 miles per hour and climbed more than 55 miles up into the sky, where Moses experienced his first view of the cosmos through the aircraft's cabin windows.

Soon, paying customers will be on board Galactic's spacecraft called VSS Unity. It's Moses' job to make sure the 600-plus customers who pay up to $ 250,000 for the experience will enjoy the trip.

She teamed up with CNN Business at an event in New York where the company unveiled the Under Armor space suits designed for its passengers. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Were there any specific requests you had about the space suit designs?

I have to give full credit and shout to the Under Armor and Galactic teams. Both during the flight and in mock up-testing and training, I discussed how harness was on the suit and where we could add padding or avoid seams so it all works well.

In every way possible, the suit and seat and the ship should get out of the way and just support the experience. It's a really delicate design balance, and I think they've got the perfect fit between function and design.

You've told CNN Business before that your main goal is to prepare customers so they can enjoy the trip. How was your experience?

I didn't have the luxury of being a customer who was there to enjoy it. I had the job of testing it, which was a very strict timeline. Now I have said that of course, I purposefully checked the view from all the windows to see if it was a great, special place that people should not miss in the cabin.

I also tested different ways to get out of sitting and looking out the window, which customers can do when they reach microgravity. They can literally just loosen and look out of the window as they float. And don't swim. Everyone thinks they're going to swim around, but swimming doesn't do anything about microgravity.

How long were you weightless?

I had a little less than five minutes in weightlessness, and that's about what our customers want too.

What types of G forces did you experience?

It actually maximized about three and a half G, three times the force of gravity. Customers may experience a little more depending on how high the plane goes. When we start commercial services, we find the sweet spot.

What was the plane like?

Every moment of my flight, even the ones you could characterize as intense, were fun, comfortable, exciting. The positive side of intense.

As you might imagine, a launch, 60 seconds below rocket power, goes three times the speed of sound. Phenomenal. The maximum G-load only lasts for about two breaths, and it is not unpleasant or too dramatic.

Do passengers want to use some kind of helmet or oxygen supply?

No! The cabin is under pressure. There is nothing built into the suit that is necessary for customers to master to stay safe. The ship takes care of all this.

Did you need a helmet on your flight?

What I tested really used the ship as a helmet, we used a padded ceiling and padded walls.

  Beth Moses looks back on Earth during his space flight on February 22.

One of the findings about my plane was that we had contoured that lining, and I recommended that we change the contours so that they are thicker in certain areas.

What testing is left?

There will be test aircraft with mission specialists at the cabin. When we start commercial service we will have four passengers in the cabin, so we will grow to that point in our test program in advance. As we have more ships in the fleet, we will increase to passenger numbers of six.

What tips would you give your customers?

My biggest advice is to just relax.



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