Sonja Rohde is enjoying the thrill of anticipation.
If everything goes to plan, her childhood dream will
become reality and within the next year she will be the
first German woman flying into space, when Richard
Branson’s SpaceShipTwo will lift off from the
world’s first private space port in New
What is the attraction of space?
Even as a child I dreamed about travelling to the
stars. It began when my Grandmother gave me a
children’s encyclopedia when I was five years
old. Space Travel and Dinosaurs were my favorite pages.
I started dreaming about a journey to the stars. I was
instantly fascinated by the blackness of space, the
huge rockets and the astronauts in their suits. My
father had to stick glowing stars on to my bedroom
ceiling so I could look at them at night. This
fascination has never ended. I was thrilled by the TV
show “Space Night”, where pictures from
space were broadcasted. At some point I heard that from
the year 2050 onwards, people from the public would be
able to travel into space, so I never gave up the dream
that one day I could go on such a journey – even
if it were as a toothless granny.
How did you meet Richard
I met Richard Branson on a Safari in Africa. During a
mutual dinner the conversation turned to
VirginGalactic, his private spaceline . I felt as if I
was struck by lightning, realizing my childhood dream
would have a chance of coming true. This encounter must
have been fate. I instantly expressed my absolute
desire to participate in the flight. This was a
spontaneous decision that came straight from my
Do you have to train a lot?
I have to take part in regular trainings that are
organized by Virgin Galactic. For example, I had to
undergo a zero gravity training at Kennedy Space Center
in Cape Canaveral, which was a unique experience.
Floating through the room as light as a feather is
indescribable. After that I had centrifuge training
with NASTAR, where a rocket launch is simulated and the
body is exposed to a force six times as strong as
gravity. Beyond that, I had to pass various medical
tests in order to prove that my body is fit enough for
the trip into space.
What will the trip itself be
The carrier White Knight will take us to an altitude of
15 kilometres. There the Spaceship will be uncoupled
and be in free fall for some seconds, then the rocket
engine is ignited, breaks through the sonic barrier
within eight seconds and shoots vertically 100
kilometres further into space – with almost four
times the speed of sound (approx. 4,200 kilometres per
hour). There will be eight of us: Two pilots and six
passengers. And we will experience everything that
belongs to a proper space adventure: Zero gravity, the
view of a thousand miles in every direction, where you
can see the sun, moon, earth and stars all at the same
time. I will feel the force of the rockets in my body,
see the sky go by and watch it change from light to
dark blue then to purple and finally black – in
broad daylight. And then there will be this
breathtaking silence. Our helmets will be equipped with
cameras that film everything we look at. It is very
likely that there will be a sound broadcast that people
can follow on earth.
It must be wonderful to have the chance to
fulfill one’s dream.
Yes, it is. But it should also encourage other people.
Every dream can come true, even in moments where you
least expect it. This is, was makes live interesting:
Everything can happen.