Tuesday, 30 May 2023 13:15

Astronaut of Jamaican heritage completes first space flight

Rate this item
(0 votes)
Christopher Huie, the son of Jamaican immigrants, reacts during his first space flight aboard Unity 25 on May 25. (Photo: Virgin Galactic) Christopher Huie, the son of Jamaican immigrants, reacts during his first space flight aboard Unity 25 on May 25. (Photo: Virgin Galactic)

Christopher Huie, the son of Jamaican immigrants and a mission specialist, is one of the newest astronauts at Virgin Galactic.

Huie took his first space flight on Unity 25 on May 25, wearing Jamaica and United States flag patches.

“Looking down at our beautiful planet from space, something that so few humans have experienced, was such a humbling, awe-inspiring, and reverent experience,” said Huie, Senior Manager, Flight Science at Virgin Galactic.

“As one of the first 20 black people who have gone to space, I hope that I can inspire the next generation of astronauts who look like me to set their goals high and break down the mental and institutional barriers that have held people of colour back,” he said in a release from Virgin Galactic. “This is just the beginning, and I look forward to continuing to push boundaries with Virgin Galactic and shine a spotlight on the doors that commercial space travel can open for innovation.”

Before takeoff last week, Huie told foreign press that his flight represents the completion of a journey that had its beginnings on the Caribbean island of Jamaica.

His story began when his mother moved from Hanover to Chicago at the age of 17 to live with her aunt in pursuit of better opportunities. She then went to Florida, where Huie grew up. She was in New Mexico to watch her son take his first space flight from Spaceport.

Huie earned a degree in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Maryland and worked in the industry before joining Virgin Galactic in 2016 to serve as a loads and simulation engineer. 

He became the world’s 19th black astronaut, but as a child, he never imagined he would have a chance to travel into space. He did admit to playing with Legos and building spaceships and flying machines and that he did want to become an astronaut for a while before deciding he wanted to be a pilot. Ultimately, he became a space engineer.

Huie thought there was a “one in 10 million chance” of becoming an astronaut.

The UK media Metro reported that Huie paid tribute to his mother before travelling beyond the Earth’s atmosphere for the first time.

His parents divorced when he was very young, but his mother was determined to give him a better life and spent her working life employed at hospitals until she retired, to ensure he had access to opportunities she never did. 

According to Huie, his mother “sacrificed a lot” so that he could take advantage of opportunities as they presented themselves, and this is why he views his space flight as the culmination of their journey.

Huie said the space flight is not just for Jamaica, but also for immigrants everywhere who are looking for opportunities to do the best they can.

Living with his wife and daughter in Los Angeles, Huie wants to show others with backgrounds similar to his how to succeed in their lives. He said he wants to be a role model for people who look like him and help them understand how they can break down barriers through determination and focus. 

A co-founder of the Black Leaders in Aerospace Scholarship and Training (BLAST) programme, which mentors college students, Huie said one of his life goals is to change the world in whatever way he can.

He advises others to watch what he does next while acknowledging little could match going into space.

Huie’s Unity 25 fellow crew members included Beth Moses, Luke Mays and Jamila Gilbert. While he has a detailed knowledge of the VSS Unity and VMS Eve craft, as he had worked on virtually every part of the spaceship and mothership, he took a more passive role in the recent mission.

The launch was designed to make a final assessment of the flight and astronaut experience before taking paying customers on 90-minute flights in the near future.