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Space traveller Keisha Schahaff’s love for reggae nurtured by late father

Visits Trench Town, Bob Marley Museum while in Jamaica

Published:Sunday | December 3, 2023 | 12:10 AMYasmine Peru - Senior Gleaner Writer
Keisha Schahaff enjoying her stay at Couples.
Keisha Schahaff enjoying her stay at Couples.

History-making space traveller Keisha Schahaff jetted into Jamaica last week as a guest of Ardenne High School, where she was the keynote speaker for the institution’s annual Distinguished Lecture Series.

On the things-to-do list for the citizen from Antigua and Barbuda was a visit to Trench Town and the Bob Marley Museum. Schahaff is a reggae fan whose love for the music was nurtured by her late father.

“Music connects me to my father. I have such a bond with him. He has been my best friend ... my idol ... all my life, my superhero. Tragically, he took his life just a year ago, so this really made me feel whole, like if my dad was there ... because he was a very big lover of true reggae music,” Schahaff shared with The Sunday Gleaner.

Schahaff, who grew up listening to the music of Bob Marley and the Wailers “and a whole other line of legends”, said that just being in Jamaica connected her “to that energy of true reggae and true culture and connecting with our people as well ... so I feel very blessed and honoured with this experience”.

The space traveller and her daughter, who made history as the first mother-daughter duo and the first Caribbean women and the 6th and 7th black women to enter space, was grounded by the music of Bob Marley and described her visit to the museum as “really beautiful”.

“That was another dream of mine to connect with Bob Marley. Just learning about him when I was a little girl and what he represented ... his mission, his mindset, there’s so much of what I share. I feel [that] unity...love... is what we should be focusing on, on our planet. And just being there ... just being in that space, knowing that Bob Marley once walked in this place, sat in this building and once existed right there was truly emotional for me,” Schahaff said.

After carrying out her official duties, Schahaff spent a few days at Couples Resort, which was one of the sponsors of her visit. Alexandra Thompson, PR manager for Couples Tower Isle, said that the resort was only too happy to be on board.

“Couples Resorts, being the first all-inclusive hotel in Jamaica, encourages innovative experiences. This being a Virgin Galactic mission and Couples receiving so many guests on Virgin Airways was another reason we sponsored her stay. Finally, her story is so inspirational for young people and, through our Issa Trust Foundation, we want to share her story to the young people in Jamaica who we impact,” Thompson explained.

It was on Thursday, August 10, that Schahaff, 46, and her daughter Anastatia Mayers, 18, experienced an out-of-this-world adventure as civilian passengers aboard the Virgin Galactic 02 Spacecraft which took off from Spaceport America in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico.

Schahaff was over the moon when she was informed that she had won two tickets to travel to space through a philanthropic fundraising draw benefiting Space for Humanity – a non-profit organisation whose mission is to send more diverse humans to space. She invited her daughter, who is studying philosophy and physics at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, and plans to become an astrobiologist.

Her bio on Virgin’s website stated that “growing up in Antigua, Keisha Schahaff would look up at the impressive display of stars above and find herself both inspired and also asking questions about the meaning of life. It was this quest for purpose that led Keisha to study Buddhism and ultimately train as a life coach to help others around her”.

Schahaff has spoken in many interviews about the peace which she experienced while in space.

She told The Sunday Gleaner that “all the burdens in my body and my mind just lifted and I felt total surrender and total freedom”.

“The experience of zero gravity was ... wow ... it was an awe moment for me. And then just looking at Earth something was interconnected with that moment. Just seeing how beautiful our planet looked. And for some reason, being here back on the planet right now all I can feel is that lightness and that surrender and I am very grateful that I brought that peace back with me,” Schahaff said.

yasmine.peru@gleanerjm.com