Keisha Schahaff and Anastasia Mayers, from Antigua and Barbuda, have made history by becoming the Caribbean’s first mother-daughter duo astronauts, and residents turned out in hundreds to support them
The new astronauts were part of three private cosmonauts who embarked on Virgin Galactic’s first private spaceflight.
The craft took off from New Mexico, and the Antiguan pair represented their country on this historic journey.
The Tourism Authority organized two public watch parties at the Antigua Recreation Grounds and the Holy Trinity School in Barbuda to celebrate their achievement. The festivities began at 9 am, and the flight took off at about 11:22.
Sir Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin Galactic, was a guest of Prime Minister Gaston Browne for the launch, alongside Jamaican-American Christopher Huie, who became the 19th Black astronaut earlier this year, and the family of the Antiguan and Barbudan astronauts.
Before the launch, Prime Minister Gaston Browne gave a speech to the crowd at the ARG watch party venue.
He praised the mother-daughter duo for their momentous achievement and compared their effort to that of other notable Antiguan women.
“Today, we embark on an extraordinary journey beyond our earthly bounds. Guided by the indomitable spirit of two remarkable Antiguan and Barbudan women, Keisha Schahaff and Anastasia Mayers. In the cosmic expanse of space, they are not mere passengers but cosmic explorers blazing a trail into the unknown. Their courage reflects the power of human potential,” he said
He also encouraged young people across the country to use their history-making as a source of inspiration for what should be considered a limitless future.
“Within each of us lies the universe waiting to be explored. The courage matches that of the Antigua Island girls whose bravery transcends borders and genders, inspiring us to embrace the spirit of adventure and exploration. In the footsteps of the visionary Sir Richard Branson, we recognize that the stars are within our reach,” he said
Browne said that national hero, Sir Vivian Richards, demonstrated the power of belief in self and the indomitable spirit of the Antiguan and Barbudan people to become one of the best cricketers ever.
“Let the courage of Kesha and Anna fuel the dreams of our youth and propel our citizens to follow their cosmic destinies. Today, Antigua and Barbuda will be forever remembered among the stars and here on Earth as a transformational small island state striving to become an economic powerhouse in the Caribbean. There are no limits to what we can achieve,” he added.
Browne also expressed gratitude to Richard Branson, the Founder of Virgin Galactic, for making the occasion possible.