When Virgin Galactic astronaut and mission specialist Christopher Huie took his first space flight on Unity 25 on May 25, 2023, he wore Jamaican and United States flag patches to reflect his conviction that the trip represents the completion of a journey that had its beginnings on the Caribbean island of Jamaica.
The son of Jamaican immigrants, Huie’s personal origin story begins when his mother moved from Harvey River in the parish of Hanover to Chicago at the age of 17 to live with her aunt and pursue better life opportunities. She then went to Florida where Huie grew up. Huie’s mother flew to New Mexico to watch her son take his first space flight from Spaceport.
Huie earned a degree in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Maryland and worked in the industry prior to joining Virgin Galactic in 2016 to serve as a loads and simulation engineer. He became the world’s 19th Black astronaut, but as a child, he never imagined he would have a chance to travel into space.
He did admit to playing with Legos and building spaceships and flying machines and that he did want to become an astronaut for a while before deciding he wanted to be a pilot before ultimately becoming a space engineer. He thought there was a “one in ten million chance” of becoming an astronaut.
Speaking from the Gateway to Space Centre of Virgin Galactic, Huie paid tribute to his mother before traveling beyond the Earth’s atmosphere for the first time. His story is likely familiar to many Jamaicans in the United Kingdom, which is marking the 75th anniversary of the arrival of the HMT Windrush from the Caribbean.
His parents divorced when he was very young, but his mother was determined to give him a better life and spent her working life employed by hospitals until she retired to ensure he had access to opportunities she never had. According to Huie, his mother “sacrificed a lot” so that he could take advantage of opportunities as they presented themselves, and this is why he views his space flight as the culmination of their journey.
Huie said the space flight is not just for Jamaica, but also for immigrants everywhere who are looking for opportunities to do the best they can in the life they’ve been given. Living with his wife and daughter in Los Angeles, Huie wants to show others with backgrounds similar to his own how to succeed in their lives.
He said he wants to be a role model for people who look like him and help them understand how they can break down barriers to what they want to achieve via determination and focus. A co-founder of the Black Leaders in Aerospace Scholarship and Training (BLAST) program, which mentors college students, Huie says one of his life goals is to change the world in whatever way he can. He advises others to watch what he does next while acknowledging little could match going into space.
Huie’s Unity 25 fellow crew members included Beth Moses, Luke Mays and Jamila Gilbert. While he has a detailed knowledge of the VSS Unity and VMS Eve craft as he had worked on virtually every part of the spaceship and mothership, he took a more passive role in the recent mission. The launch was designed to make a final assessment of the flight and astronaut experience prior to taking paying customers on 90-minute flights in the near future.