Morning Ex Blasts off with Special Guest

By Physical Education teacher Tyler Heidtke
Colin Bennett, Virgin Galactic Astronaut 003 aboard the Unity 22 Spaceflight, “visited” Parker via Zoom for the first Morning Ex of the second semester. Bennett had the privilege—along with Virgin Group Founder Sir Richard Branson and two other Virgin Galactic employees—of being on the first passenger-carrying private suborbital space flight.

Bennett, who has been with Virgin Galactic for more than six years, currently serves as the company’s lead flight operations engineer and will be one of the flight directors when the company is ready to take paying customers into space. Before joining Virgin Galactic, he spent four years on the Flight Operations Team at Virgin Atlantic and, prior to that, was part of Flight Test for the UK’s Ministry of Defence. Through these roles, Bennett has accumulated flying hours as a flight test engineer across multiple aircraft, including commercial airliners, Chinook helicopters and the Virgin Galactic mothership, VMS Eve. He studied aerospace engineering at the University of Liverpool and is also a qualified pilot. He joined us virtually from Virgin Galactic’s headquarters in Las Cruces, New Mexico to chat about his experience in space, Virgin Galactic’s next steps in offering space travel to everyone and the future of space travel.

Bennett and I met while he was studying abroad at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where we both played on the Illinois Men’s Rugby Football Club and became close friends. Throughout the years, we have stayed in touch and always make time to meet up when we are within reasonable driving distance from one another.

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Francis W. Parker School educates students to think and act with empathy, courage and clarity as responsible citizens and leaders in a diverse democratic society and global community.