Students from Segerstrom High School in Santa Ana recently had the experience of a lifetime: touring Virgin Galactic’s facilities and hangar, where the White Knight Two and SpaceShip Two are being built.

“From the flight sim to watching the making of the new spaceships to actually seeing the spaceship and mothership — all wow!” said 12th grader Shadi.

The opportunity was offered by Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides to two winning schools attending the Aerospace Workforce Development Symposium in September.  So on December 15, 45 lucky Segerstrom HS students embarked on the long bus ride from Orange County to the Mojave Desert, thanks to a partnership between OC Pathways at the Orange County Department of Education and Base 11.

“I am truly grateful to have had the opportunity to go on such an inspiring field trip that has greatly increased my interest in an engineering career. It was eye-opening to hear from professionals in the field and industry,”— Jolie, 11th grade

On the tour, students got up close with innovative technologies like wings that fold mid-flight, cardboard-like composite material used to construct spacecraft, and saw flight simulators that pilots use to train.

virgin galactic pilots

Pilots in front of one of the Virgin Galactic spacecraft that students saw in person.

But as they interacted with the dynamic team members who envision the future of commercial space travel, they were impressed by far more than just the technology.

“The best part of the tour would have been the connection felt with the speakers when I was talking to them after they spoke,” said Eduardo, an 11th grader. “The reality in their stories was enlightening.”

Many of the students walked away inspired that they, too, could work for a leading-edge company like Virgin if they work hard enough.

“I learned that Virgin Galactic is hiring people who have a drive for what they do and not just experience,” said 11th grader Kelton.

Added classmate Martiniano, “I learned that you can do what you’re passionate about for a living as long as you try your best on everything.”

In fact, 95% of the students surveyed said that the field trip to Virgin Galactic’s facilities made them more interested in pursuing an aerospace career.

“I learned that there are so many possible careers under Virgin Galactic and that I, as a student, have a chance to join this wonderful company if I work my hardest,” said 11th grader Dylan. “I’m very thankful for the wonderful experience I was given the chance to explore. I hope that one day I’ll enter that same hangar doors but as an employee next time.”