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Gilbert describes thrilling flight to space



Jamila Gilbert ’11 joined two elite groups during her spaceflight as a mission specialist on Virgin Galactic’s Unity 25, which launched from Spaceport America about 45 miles north of Las Cruces.

Gilbert became one of only 20 Hispanic people  and is among the first 100 women ever to go to space. Gilbert, who joined Virgin Galactic in 2019, participated in the spaceflight in May 2023.

“I had the privilege of experiencing a sense of wonder and awe that only spaceflight can deliver. I saw Mother Earth from space and became a child once again,” Gilbert says. “A joyous, awe-stricken, giggling little kid experiencing pure and unfiltered lightness and elation.”

With bachelor’s degrees in museum conservation and languages and linguistics, Gilbert speaks four languages and has roots to the Purépechan indigenous group in Central Mexico. Her love of art and museums led her to participate in NMSU’s museum conservation program where she received an invitation for an unforgettable summer internship at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian.

At Virgin Galactic, Gilbert leads the internal communications team. She brings different perspectives to the experience of spaceflight than other crew members with backgrounds in engineering and aerospace.

“As a visual artist, the experience for me was highly visual sensory, the clarity, the contrast, the brightness, the hyperrealism of it all. I could not have expected how highly defined and crystalline our atmosphere appears against the depth of space. It truly left me speechless.”

As a mission specialist on Unity 25’s spaceflight, Gilbert’s role was to evaluate the customer experience. The success of the Unity 25 mission led to Virgin Galactic opening commercial spaceflight operations. And with the Galactic 01 mission’s success in late June 2023, they are continuing monthly space flights.

“One of the really neat opportunities of commercial spaceflight is that you don’t have to be trained from a technical background, and you receive your spaceflight training just days leading up to your flight,” Gilbert says. “The spaceflight itself was a very fun, thrilling and comfortable experience for me.”