Kiwi woman set for astronaut training

01:43, Jan 31 2009
G FORCE: Real estate agent Jackie Maw, right, and internet entrepreneur Mark Rocket - both planning to fly into space - hold replica Apollo 17 moon walk helmets which Mark bought in New York.

A Christchurch real estate agent is about to take the next step in her quest to be the first New Zealand woman in space.

Jackie Maw will fly to Philadelphia on Monday for an intense two-day astronaut training course at the National Aerospace Training and Research (Nastar) centre in Philadelphia in preparation for a trip on one of Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic journeys.

The trip, expected to be in late 2009 or early 2010, will take her 112 kilometres above the earth.

Virgin Galactic was launched in 2005, and it is expected its maiden voyage will take place in early 2009.

The trips, costing around $300,000 a ticket, will launch six passengers and two crew from the Mojave desert, near Los Angeles, into space.

A Christchurch man who has changed his name by deedpoll to Mark Rocket, was the first New Zealander to snap up a ticket, booking his trip to space in May 2006.

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Ms Maw said she would be learning about the physiological effects of G-forces on the body, and getting used to weightlessness in her training course next week.

"I'm keen to see how going sub-orbital and getting back to earth again is going to impact on the body."

"The most challenging aspect I imagine will be getting used to the various vectors of G-force. We've been told to expect 3 to 6 Gs during the flight so it's obviously important that we are well prepared," Ms Maw said.

Ms Maw said she supported the idea of private space travel and was excited about meeting Sir Richard.

A total of 463 people from 34 countries – 415 men and 48 women – have been up in space.

Ms Maw paid for her ticket last year and joined the exclusive Founders Club – the first 100 astronauts to fly with Virgin Galactic.

"I've always had a love of flight. I've flown in gliders, hang gliders, helicopters, and aerobatic planes. When I saw the movie Top Gun, I wanted to fly F14s. When I saw Apollo 13, I wanted to become an astronaut. I guess this is as close as I'm likely to get this lifetime."

- NZPA