Christopher Huie, a Jamaican-American, accompanied three other crew members for a test voyage on the Unity 25 spacecraft on May 25, making him the 19th Black astronaut to fly in space.
The Gleaner reported that when the 35-year-old astronaut and his colleagues did a scheduled test fly of a mothership and spaceship at Virgin Atlantic’s Spaceport America in New Mexico, he paid honor to his Caribbean roots by wearing the Jamaican flag alongside the American flag on his suit. The trial run was carried out in advance of the business’s 90-minute commercial excursions, which are expected to begin in June.
“For me, it is part of my personal origin story. 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,” Huie told Metro.co.uk prior to the flight.
“I have had a lot more opportunities in my life than she [his mother] has 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,” he added.
Before taking on the post of a loading and simulation engineer at Virgin Galactic, the Black astronaut, who received a degree in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Maryland, first worked in the aerospace industry’s private sector.
As one of the creators of Virgin Galactic’s Black Leaders in Aerospace Scholarship and Training (BLAST) program, which offers college students mentorship, Huie has also made it a priority to encourage aspirant Black astronauts.
The 35-year-old also said the space mission meant he had fulfilled a childhood dream as he used to make spaceships with LEGO toys. “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,” he recalled.
“It seemed like a long road to be a fighter pilot and I just changed careers to become an aerospace engineer. I did not ever think I would ever have an opportunity to go into space,” Huie added. “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.”
Founded by billionaire business mogul Sir Richard Branson, Virgin Galactic is touted as the world’s first commercial space line.