New Mexico woman will be on board for Virgin Galactic’s return to space

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Virgin Galactic is planning its first paid passenger flight from Spaceport New Mexico for late June.

Its final test flight is planned for late May with a true piece of New Mexico on board – a native New Mexican will be part of the crew.

“It is a nervous excitement,” said Jamila Gilbert.

Gilbert is a Virgin Galactic employee who was raised in Las Cruces. She was picked by the company to experience a trip to space from a customer’s perspective.

“So many people have not had the opportunity to fly to space in all of human history, the number is microscopic, and getting to experience this as our customers will is phenomenal,” said Gilbert. 

Gilbert is unlike other members of her crew, or many of those who’ve taken Virgin Galactic test flights in the past – she’s not a pilot, an engineer, or even a scientist.

Less than five years ago, she was working a communications job with Visit Las Cruces. Then, she got a job with Virgin Galactic’s internal communications.

“Never in a million years did I think I would have the opportunity to fly to space,” said Gilbert. 

She will get the full customer experience. The same three days of training 800 paying customers have already signed up for, followed by a space flight on the fourth day. 

Not only does she get to take the trip of a lifetime, but she also gets to do it close to home.

“It is the ultimate transformational experience to see Earth from above, just a little under an hour from where I grew up,” Gilbert said. 

Virgin Galactic is not saying what day these next flights will be. They say the 800 paying customers will be coming to New Mexico from more than 60 different countries.