The Air Up There Podcast
Cosmic Legend: Youngest Woman in Space

Season 6, Episode 1

Three, two, one, lift off! Season 6 is go for launch!

Imagine one day you’re a typical 18-year-old, then you wake up the next day as the youngest woman to venture into the cosmos. That is the reality for Anastatia Mayers, whose curiosity for aerospace led her to an opportunity that was literally out of this world. 

So, how did Ana find herself aboard Virgin Galactic's “Galactic 02” commercial spaceflight? We floated this question and more to Ana, and she left no asteroid unturned.

If you wonder what weightlessness feels like, how Earth appears from space, or whether Ana managed to perform any backflips, tune in to our first podcast episode of Season 6, “Cosmic Legend: Youngest Woman in Space”. 

In this episode, Ana shares the exciting details of her intergalactic adventure, and we discuss the role FAA played in providing a safe space in the National Airspace System for her mission.

Share this episode with your family, colleagues, and friends. The gravity of this story shows the next generation that the sky is truly not the limit. Now excuse us – we're going to see if we can get a seat on an upcoming commercial spaceflight!

Learn more about the FAA’s Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math Aviation and Space Education Program (STEM AVSED).

Meet Our Guest:
Anastatia Mayers is the youngest woman, the second-youngest passenger, and the first Caribbean to travel to space on Virgin Galactic’s “Galactic 02” commercial space flight that took place on August 10, 2023. Mayers made the journey to space alongside her mother, Keisha Schahaff, and Olympian Jon Goodwin. Mayers is a philosophy and physics student studying at Aberdeen University in the United Kingdom.

Disclaimer: Reference in this podcast to any specific commercial product, process, service, manufacturer, company, or trademark does not constitute endorsement or recommendation by the U.S. government, DOT, or FAA. As an agency of the U.S. government, FAA cannot endorse or appear to endorse any specific product or service.

Anastatia Mayers
Cosmic Legend: Youngest Woman in Space
Audio file

Ana Mayers: I think when I looked out the window, knowing that I was looking down at my home planet. And just being able to see, like, the beauty of our planet. I think that's, that's something I still can't comprehend, just how beautiful it was. 

Lucy Jabbour: That’s Ana Mayers. At the age of 18, she became the youngest woman to go to space on Virgin Galactic’s Galactic 2 spaceflight. We’re your hosts, I’m Lucy Jabbour.

Kreston Barron: And I’m Kreston Barron, an FAA Minority Serving Institution intern in the Office of Commercial Space. I’ve always been passionate about space and exploring the solar systems.  

Lucy Jabbour: Kreston is also a PH. D candidate at Georgia Institute of Technology. 

Kreston Barron: And this is The Air Up There!

Person 1: This is your captain speaking. 

Various People: The feeling I get when I’m flying is just; you get an adrenaline rush. Seeing something fly is awesome. It’s incredible to be able to fly. Flying airplanes is all I’ve ever wanted to do. I get so excited about aviation, aeronautics, space, engineering, and tech. Like star gazing and just wondering what it would be like to be up there. I just fell in love with it. Stick with your passion and pursue it. Just know you can do it. There is not a room, there is not a cockpit, there is not a place that you don’t belong. There’s certainly a place for everybody in aerospace. 

Lucy Jabbour: Did you know the FAA is responsible for the safety of commercial space launches and reentries? We work to keep everyone on the ground and in the air safe. 

Kreston Barron: That's right. The FAA licenses commercial space companies and launch sites. We do safety inspections and monitor countdown procedures. 

Lucy Jabbour: And the FAA Command Center closes and reopens airspace, and reroutes aircraft as needed. 

Kreston Barron: In fact, the FAA issued the launch license and provided a safe space in the National Airspace System for the Galactic 2 mission that today’s guest, Ana Mayers, participated in.

Lucy Jabbour: So, Ana, tell us a little bit about yourself.  

Ana Mayers: So, I grew up in Antigua. I spent my entire life there until I was 17. I actually moved up to Scotland on my 17th birthday. Living in Antigua. I personally felt like I was kind of living in a box just because I thought while I'm on like this tiny island that absolutely no one's ever heard of, and like what opportunities could I get for myself? I think as I grew up, and especially like this experience in itself, it's kind of just like taught me that it doesn't matter where you've come from. If you set yourself up to like, take those opportunities, then it's always a possibility.

Kreston Barron: When did you first realize that you were interested in space exploration?

Ana Mayers: My first interaction with any sort of space related science was in grade four where we were learning about astronomy. I remember taking home that like piece of homework, which was just like writing down like details about like different planets and stuff like that. And I remember that completely changed my perspective on like the planet and space and everything. And I remember like, throughout my life we would get like different pieces of equipment to like look at the stars and I was very engaged with like stargazing and just wondering what it would be like to be up there. 

Lucy Jabbour: What was your first reaction when you found out that you were going to be going to space?

Ana Mayers: Um, my first reaction when my mom called me and told me I was going crazy.  I didn't believe her at all until Richard Branson took the phone and he said, “No, you and your mom are actually going to space.” And I was in a state of shock for months.

Lucy Jabbour: Wait, Richard Branson got on the line. It was like, Hey, it's me, Richard Branson. This is really happening.

Ana Mayers: Yep. He showed up at my mom's house and surprised her.

Lucy Jabbour: That is wild. 

Kreston Barron: Wow. How did your mom find out about the contest? Like how did she know to enter it?

Ana Mayers: So, we were on a flight to get my student visa to come and study in Scotland. So, on that flight, she was like, going through like the entertainment system and the ad had popped up and she clicked it and entered it just randomly.

Kreston Barron: Although I guess that means I need to turn my ad blockers off then so I can start seeing the cool stuff like that.  

Lucy Jabbour: What was it like prepping to go up to space.

Ana Mayers: It was just kind of things like teaching you how to move around in space and making sure that you have all of like, all of your goals for what you want to do and what you want to get out of the experience. Also, like safety procedures, just in case and like a lot of team bonding, and team building experiences. 

Lucy Jabbour: What kind of team building like activities did you guys do? 

Ana Mayers: The very first and probably the most influential one was witnessing a spaceflight together. We did go a few months prior to our space flight, and we witnessed, like an in-house flight. And I think that was probably the most, the most life changing one. Just being able to share that experience together. And I remember when we came back, we spent a lot of time together. Like we stayed in the same area, and we went out for dinners together. So, there was a lot of times like get to know each other and like communicate like on our own terms. But then also, like we did all of our training together and like we watched each other like develop like mentally in preparation for this experience. So, the most effective part of team building would just be to like spend time together and like do all of these activities together. 

Lucy Jabbour: Where were you guys when you got to see this spaceflight that you were talking about?

Ana Mayers: We were in New Mexico. So, the same place that our spaceflight take took off from.

Lucy Jabbour: Was there one part of the prep like something they had to do? Do you get to go into like a zero-gravity atmosphere? Like what was that like?

Ana Mayers: Yeah, we did a zero-gravity flight and it was really exciting. It's my second favorite part of the experience. I also think it was very useful because we flew with the pilots that took us to space. So, I think that was a great way to like bond with the pilots and really get to know each other.

Kreston Barron: So, I guess now that you won the ticket and then now you’re getting a chance to go. It’s launch day. You're going through all the emotions, like what would you say would be the most thrilling part of that day?

Ana Mayers: Honestly, it's kind of hard to say what was the best part. I mean, obviously, going up to space and being in space was extraordinary. But the best and most memorable feeling was waking up that morning and seeing everyone outside and knowing that we were all feeling the same things. And just like that feeling of connection. And the fact that like, I looked over to my mom, and she was looking up at the stars, and I was looking at the stars, and it felt so natural and so connecting. I think that was the best feeling. 

Kreston Barron: You mentioned on the ground on a launch day that you know there was a sense of connection. When you got up to space and you looked out the window what were your feelings then? What were like the emotions and things that were going through your mind when you looking down?

Ana Mayers: I think that was the first time that I had just complete and total silence and peace in my head. I remember getting up there and I didn't look when we were like entering space. So, it was kind of a shock when I turned my head, and then there was the earth. And it was just mind blowing. Like, I can't really describe it. But it's like, you're thinking all of these things. And you're like, “Oh, I wonder what it looks like,” and this and that. And then you look at it, and it's just silence.

Kreston Barron: So, I know a lot of people talk about like that overview effect, when you see the Earth down below, like, how did that like, change your worldview of things and being able to see all of us here down on Earth in this one place that we call home?

Ana Mayers: I think the most significant change for me, was just realizing that everything matters, but it also doesn't matter as much as we think it does. I think the biggest take away from it was that, like all of these, like borders that we put up for ourselves, and all of these, like, criticisms that we give ourselves and each other, just aren't as important as we make them seem. Like, I personally now think that, like we're given one life and one shot at this. So, the most important thing is to try your best to live your life to like the fullest extent. Like, not just survive, but to truly like, think of things in a really meaningful way and take as much away from any experience as you can.

Kreston Barron: What about like this, the, I guess, the physical feeling beaten in microgravity environment? How did how did that feel for... I know you said you were in zero G first, but how did this feel? 

Ana Mayers: I would describe it as a very weird and confusing feeling. I remember when I first felt the weightlessness, I was really confused as to like how my body worked anymore, but after a few seconds, you do realize that you function in the same way, you're just a lot lighter. And it's confusing to feel like less weight.

Kreston Barron: So obviously, you're like doing some flips and stuff right? I guess that's the thing that everybody does when they get up there.

Ana Mayers: I personally didn't do any flips.

Kreston Barron: It's cool. You know, you mentioned about being able to see the world view effect. Do you think that other people should be able to have that kind of feeling too? Should it just be for, you know, the people who have the money to get to space? Or is that something that people from, you know, marginalized smaller communities can get a chance to have as well?

Ana Mayers: I can say that I hope in the future, it'll be a lot more common for people who don't necessarily have the money to like pay for these tickets to also get those opportunities. I do you hope to see that in the future, because I do think that an influence like this is insanely important for everyone to experience.

Kreston Barron: What does it feel like and what does it mean to you to be the youngest black woman to go to space?

Ana Mayers: Even for myself, it's very inspirational. I know, I've looked back like in history and seen like, the first black woman to do this and to do that and I've been inspired by it. But I think to hold that title myself is life changing and I do just hope that the influence reaches the right people and everyone that needs it to like really believe in themselves and know that they can make these achievements too.

Kreston Barron: And, also like you’re consider the Virgin Galactic astronaut number 13. So not only are you the youngest Black woman to go to space, but like you’re like kind of at the beginning of the commercial space venture where people are trying to get into space. So how does that feel to, to know that you're like, among like one of the people on the beginning of the list, which may come to be a long list of civilian astronauts?

Ana Mayers: I feel super honored to even hold that title to be one of the first few people to fly with Virgin Galactic. I honestly just can't wait to see what the future holds.

Kreston Barron: You’re historical figure now. This is an opportunity for a lot of people to look up to you now and say, look that could be that could be me at some point in the future. And folks who are in grade school and look it up in space like you did when you were in fourth grade and, and wondering like, could that be me? And now they can say, Yeah, it could be.

Lucy Jabbour: Speaking of inspiration, do you have advice for people who are interested in aerospace like younger people?

Ana Mayers: I do. I myself am still figuring everything out. Although I have made this massive achievement, I definitely think that the most important thing is to trust yourself and to show yourself that you can do it. I think that the best way that you can, that you can reach any of your goals is to just support yourself and have less self-doubt. Cuz I think we can all surprise ourselves when we, when we really do trust our abilities.

Kreston Barron: What next for you? What do you plan to do next? I guess I wouldn't say the top this, because it’d probably be hard to do that, but what do you have next in your plans?

Ana Mayers: Well, I'm currently still in university. So, I'm planning on finishing that first. I think that's a very common thing that I've heard everyone say is that this is such a big experience that there's no way you can top that. And I find that really interesting, because like, my point of view is that, like, I've reached my ultimate goal. And now I just have a lot more confidence in myself to reach like all of these smaller goals that I've been avoiding for years. So, I don't know what's next but I hope it's something exciting.

Commercial Space Education PSA: Do you dream about space travel? The time is now to find your place in space. The U.S. commercial space transportation sector has a demand for aerospace professionals. Start your plan now by studying science, technology, engineering and math. The FAA can help you through our STEM Aviation Education program. Learn how you can shape the future of space. Go to 

Bookend Out:
Lucy Jabbour: Thank you for listening! For more information about today’s guest, check out - forward slash – podcasts. Subscribe, like, follow where ever you get your podcasts so you don’t miss a single episode. Coming up next week...

[Teaser Clip]

Jason San Souci: My current gig are the flying ham sandwiches called drones and I’ve been doing that for, wow, about 11 years now. 

Lucy Jabbour: Flying ham sandwiches? 

DaiJah Metoyer: I caught that too. 

Lucy Jabbour: Where does that come from?