Dear Our Today editor,
I trust this letter finds you well. I am writing to express my magnitude 7.2 shock at the recent Gleaner article titled “Caribbean’s first space traveler lands in Jamaica,” which perpetuates a stunningly false narrative that has been widely circulated by Ardenne High School, and conceivably, the Government of Antigua and Barbuda.
However, before I continue, I must ask three or four hard critical thinker’s questions. How did Keisha Schahaff (VG Astronaut 012), the subject of the article prepare herself in Antigua or elsewhere for her space flight? How was she selected to make that flight? Did she or her child ever demonstrate, for even three months, any depth of dedication or sustained personal commitment and skill in the field of aerospace science or practice before boarding that Virgin Galactic sub-orbital flight? If not, what on earth is there for sixth form students of any Jamaican high school to emulate or celebrate as a first by dear pretty, pretty Kiesha in rather stylish sunglasses?
Kindly note that Virgin Galactic’s spaceflights involve suborbital trajectories, meaning the spacecraft briefly reaches the edge of space before descending back to Earth. Suborbital flights do not complete a full orbit around the Earth. Passengers experience a few minutes of weightlessness during the ascent and descent phases of the flight.
On one of such flights Kiesha and her child were hoisted on high. Those VG flights involve suborbital trajectories, meaning the spacecraft briefly reaches the edge of space before descending back to Earth. Suborbital flights do not complete a full orbit around the Earth. Passengers experience a few minutes of weightlessness during the ascent and descent phases of the flight.
The article incorrectly claims that Schahaff and her teenage daughter are the first Caribbean nationals to journey into space. It uses the word “travel” which implies extended orbital space flight. This is a blatant misrepresentation of history, as there have been at least five or six individuals who are of fully Caribbean origin who have convincingly travelled to space in multi-orbital space flight before Schahaff touched the edge of space for mere minutes. Among these were:
- Arnaldo Tamayo Méndez (born 1942), a Cuban cosmonaut who flew on Soyuz 31 in 1980 as part of the Interkosmos programme. He was the first Latin American, the first Caribbean born, and the first person of African descent to travel to space and work in space exploration throughout several outer space orbits of Planet Earth.
- Jean-Jacques Dessart (born 1966), a Haitian-American astronaut who flew on Space Shuttle Atlantis in 2006. He was the first Haitian to travel to space and work intelligently in outer space weightlessness for a truly extended period.
- Victor Glover (born 1976) is an American astronaut of Bajan descent. He flew on SpaceX Crew Dragon Resilience in 2020. He is the first person of Bajan descent to travel to space.
The fact that Ardenne High School has been promoting this false narrative among its students, their parents, and the wider Jamaican community is deeply troubling. It trivialises the remarkable achievements of these Caribbean astronauts and undermines the importance of accurate and truthful reporting.
I use this medium to urge the Jamaica Gleaner to immediately correct the headline of this article and retract the false claims made within its content. Furthermore, I call upon Ardenne High School to take responsibility for its role in spreading this misinformation and to issue a public apology for its actions.
It is crucial that we honor the accomplishments of all Caribbean astronauts, including those who have paved the way for others. We must also strive to uphold journalistic integrity and ensure that accurate information is disseminated to the public.
Yet again, accuracy still matters in 2023, Ardenne High School!!
Even in some of our brand name schools and other institutions, “being fake” is the flavour du jour.
Dennis A Minott, PhD is a member of the Association of Quietly Excellent Scholars and Thinkers (A-QuEST)