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Olympian with Parkinson’s heads to space

Virgin Galactic is launching its first space tourism flight later this afternoon, with a crew including a former Olympian.

Jon Goodwin, from Newcastle-under-Lyme, competed in canoeing in the 1972 Munich Games. The 80-year-old will become only the second person with Parkinson’s to reach the edge of space.

He originally bought a ticket for the flight in 2005 (he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s 9 years later).

“I inevitably thought they’d say I could no longer go [because of Parkinson’s] but they haven’t done that and I’m very honoured that’s the case,” he said.

Members of his Parkinson’s support group will be holding a watch-along in Stoke.

“From becoming an Olympian to canoeing between the peaks of Annapurna, to winning a six day race in the Arctic Circle, climbing Mount Kilimanjaro (and cycling back down), I’ve always enjoyed rising to new challenges,” continued Goodwin, or Astronaut 011.

“When I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2014, I was determined not to let it stand in the way of living life to the fullest. And now for me to go to space with Parkinson’s is completely magical. I hope this inspires all others facing adversity and shows them that challenges don’t have to inhibit or stop them from pursuing their dreams.”

At around 4pm UK time, the Virgin Galactic flight will launch from Spaceport America in New Mexico.

It’s the organisation’s second commercial flight and will see its Unity rocket plane travel to an altitude of 85km at around 4000km/h, before returning to earth over an hour later.

Joining Goodwin on VSS Unity are mother and daughter, Keisha Schahaff and Anastatia Mayers, who won tickets to join the mission through non profit Space for Humanity.

“This flight highlights two of Virgin Galactic’s core aspirations – increasing access to space and inspiring people around the world,’ said Michael Colglazier, CEO of Virgin Galactic.

“Each of these astronauts are role models and beacons of inspiration in their communities. Watching Keisha, Ana and Jon embark on this transformative experience helps demonstrate that space is now opening to a broader and more diverse population across the globe.”

The flight will be piloted by CJ Sturckow, Kelly Latimer and astronaut instructor, Beth Moses.

Virgin Galactic is hoping this launch will lead to monthly private space tourism flights, with seats costing up to £350k.

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