Astronaut wearing Jamaican flag on space flight hails mum’s sacrifices – Metro.co.uk

NEWS… BUT NOT AS YOU KNOW IT
A Virgin Galactic astronaut due to take his first space flight has told how his mum strove to give him a better life after arriving in the US from Jamaica.
Christopher Huie is one of four crew members scheduled to undertake the final assessment on Unity 25 tomorrow before commercial trips begin in late June.
The mission specialist is the son of Jamaican migrants and was raised by his mum, who has flown in to watch the flight from Spaceport America in New Mexico.
Ahead of his ‘first rodeo’ beyond Earth’s atmosphere, he paid tribute to her sacrifices in unlocking opportunities he had once never thought possible.
Christopher, 35, spoke to Metro.co.uk from Virgin Galactic’s Gateway to Space centre at the facility amid training which has included the crew taking aerobatic flights to prepare for the g-forces on the journey.
He will be wearing US and Jamaican patches on the planned test run involving a mothership and spaceship, both of which he is well acquainted with as a senior engineer.
‘For me it’s part of my personal origin story,’ Christopher said.
‘My parents came to this country from Jamaica looking for more opportunities and to do more with their lives. Both my parents, especially my mum, sacrificed a lot so I could have opportunities she didn’t have growing up. I’ve had a lot more opportunities in my life than she’s had and that’s all culminating in the space flight experience. It’s not only for Jamaica, it’s for immigrants anywhere looking for opportunities to see what you can do with the life that you’ve been given.
‘It’s a story of sacrifice and achievement, that’s what it represents for me.’
Christopher’s parents were born and raised in Jamaica before moving to the US in search of brighter prospects. His mum, originally from Harvey River in the island’s Hanover Parish, was just 17 when she went to live with her aunt in Chicago before moving to Florida where he grew up.
Christopher’s parents divorced when he was very young but his mum worked in hospitals before retiring to make sure he had opportunities she did not when she was growing up.
The family’s story will be familiar to many in the UK, which is marking 75 years since the arrival of the HMT Windrush from the Caribbean carrying hundreds of prospective workers.
Christopher’s guiding light is due to watch from the ground as her son and his crew mates take a trip into the expanse courtesy of a vertical boost at three times the speed of sound.
‘This is my first rodeo,’ he said. ‘Right now I’m just feeling anticipation and excitement. I have another day and a half left of training and I just feel confident and ready for the experience.’
Christopher, known as ‘Chuie’ to team-mates, graduated from the University of Maryland with a degree in Aerospace Engineering and worked in the industry’s private sector before joining Virgin Galactic in 2016 as a loads and simulation engineer. He is due to become the world’s 19th Black astronaut in a world he imagined as a child playing with LEGO but didn’t think he’d have the chance to join.
Asked about his childhood ambitions, Christopher replied: ‘A lot of kids are inspired by space when they are little and I would play with LEGO and I would pretty much only build spaceships and flying vehicles so I was obsessed with machines and building things from a young age.
‘I did want to be an astronaut for a little while, then I decided I wanted to be a pilot.
‘Then I changed my mind about being a pilot, it seemed like a long road to be a fighter pilot and I just changed careers to become an aerospace engineer.
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‘I didn’t ever think I would ever have an opportunity to go into space.
‘Growing up, there was only one avenue to get there and that was essentially going through the military, becoming a test pilot and having a one in 10 million chance of becoming an astronaut.’
The pioneer, who lives with his wife and daughter in Los Angeles, is leaving vapour trails for others of a similar background to follow as he takes his place alongside fellow crew members Beth Moses, Luke Mays and Jamila Gilbert. He is a co-founder of Virgin Galactic’s Black Leaders in Aerospace Scholarship and Training (BLAST) programme, which includes mentorship for college students.
‘I want to show other people out there who look like me what the possibilities are and how they can break down the barriers and be a role model and an inspiration for what you can achieve with focus and determination,’ Christopher said.
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‘I have a lot of lofty goals in my life and one of my goals is in no short way to change the world in the little ways I can. So while this a very large opportunity for me I don’t think it will be the last one.
‘So keep your eyes open and see what I do next, although little will match the magnitude of going to space.’
Astronaut 006 already has a detailed knowledge of VSS Unity and VMS Eve, having worked on nearly every component in the spaceship and mothership respectively.
He will take a more passive role onboard the planned mission, where the crew are due to experience weightlessness and wondrous views of their home planet below.
The launch is intended to make a final assessment of the spaceflight and astronaut experience before the first takers board the 90-minute flights in weeks to come.
The ‘Future Astronauts’ who have paid for reservations currently priced at $450,000 (£362,980) are due to be propelled into space via a runway take-off. The vertical Mach-3 thrust then kicks in before they experience the cosmic sightseeing at the apogee of nearly 300,000ft.
As one of the early innovators, Christopher has plans to mark his own ascent with Jamaican-style ‘finger guns’ along with other celebrations which he is keeping secret for now.
‘I have a couple of ones I will keep secret and you will see them in the news,’ he said. ‘My signature move is finger guns so I’m looking forward to doing those in space…I guess it’s just ingrained in my DNA.’
Founded by Sir Richard Branson in 2004, Virgin Galactic is billed as the world’s first commercial spaceline.
The billionaire himself reached the edge of space after taking off from New Mexico in July 2021 for what he described as the ‘experience of a lifetime’. The final test flight comes amid competition for private space travel that also includes Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin.
Do you have a story you would like to share? Contact josh.layton@metro.co.uk
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