Ex Olympian, 80, with Parkinson’s disease who will blast off on Virgin Galactic’s first space tourism flight next month says it’s ‘completely surreal’ to be on verge of voyage – 18 years after buying £194,500 ticket
- Jon Goodwin, 80, competed for Britain in the 1972 Olympics as a canoeist
- The Virgin Galactic space flight will launch from New Mexico on August 10
A former Olympian with Parkinson’s disease who will blast off on Virgin Galactic‘s first space tourism flight next month has hailed the ‘completely surreal’ opportunity.
Jon Goodwin, 80, from Newcastle, competed for Britain in the 1972 Olympic games in Munich as a canoeist and bought his ticket in 2005, setting him back £194,500.
He was diagnosed in 2014 with Parkinson’s, a disease that affects the brain and causes uncontrollable movements, and a few years later he climbed up and cycled down Mount Kilimanjaro.
Mr Goodwin told BBC Breakfast he is ‘extremely excited’ for the space flight, which will launch from New Mexico on August 10 and will be the ‘icing on the cake’ after a life of doing ‘exciting things’.
The 80-year-old was worried he wouldn’t be allowed on the flight following his Parkinson’s diagnosis but he said he is very thankful to Virgin Galactic who assumed he was still fit enough to go.
Mr Goodwin said: ‘I hope it instils other people to do what I’m doing, that it doesn’t stop them from doing abnormal things. I’m really looking forward to it.’
‘It’s completely surreal, I mean, I asked the inevitable question when I signed up in 2005, when it would be, and I was told 2008. Then it was 2009, 2010, until I learnt, forget that.
‘I always believed it would happen, a lot of people didn’t. I had a lot of faith in the project and went out to Mojave desert (in California) a number of times, watched the development, which was really interesting. So, I watched it right from the beginning.’
Asked if the 250,000 dollars he paid in 2005 for the ticket still seems worth it, he added: ‘I think it’s incredibly well-spent money. If at the time I was doing it with the Russians it would have cost me millions of dollars.’
‘I just saw it, when it came up I was the fourth person to pick up the phone and sign up, there’s now seven hundred following behind me.
‘It was just to have the opportunity to do something very few other people have done, more people have climbed Everest than have gone into space.
‘So, I do hesitate on certain things, in as much as there’s no toilet on this rocket ship, I have to go back to wearing nappies which I can’t remember the last time I had a nappy on.’
Asked how he will top going into space and back, he joked: ‘It might be that I need to go to the Moon or something.’
Mr Goodwin will be joined by two other passengers on board the VSS Unity, which will be Virgin Galactic’s seventh spaceflight and second commercial spaceflight.
Anastatia Mayer, 18, and her mum Keshia Schahaff will make history as the first Caribbean astronauts and will also become the first mother and daughter in space.
Those on board will enter sub-orbital space, where they will briefly experience weightlessness and be able to take in extraordinary views of the planet.
On the demands on his body, he said: ‘I’m very thankful to Virgin Galactic because when I got Parkinson’s I thought they were going to tell me that I couldn’t do it, but they’ve never consulted me about it, they’ve just assumed I’m fit enough to do it.
‘I’ve done two hour sessions on the James Bond centrifuge machine up to 6.5G and came out with flying colours.
‘My wife’s always fully supportive of whatever I want to do, we have two boys and they’re both coming out to see me whizz into space. The two boys think it’s what dad does, it’s not unusual for them.’
The 90-minute ‘Galactic 02’ flight will see the group enter sub-orbital space, where they will experience weightlessness and be able to view the Earth.
The flight will raise funds for Space for Humanity, a non-profit group that seeks to send ordinary citizens into space to give them a ‘grander perspective’ on the challenges facing Earth.
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