Vesa Heilala Writes Finnish History as the First Finn in Space
Finland's Vesa Heilala is one of few Finnish people to buy a ticket into space. Vesa, who lives in Helsinki, Finland, shelled out 151,000 euros for the ticket on Virgin Galactic's commercial spacecraft.
The company's tourism spaceflights depart from New Mexico in the United States. During the two-hour flight, astronauts get a glimpse of space at 100 kilometres above earth and experience weightlessness for five minutes.
In this article, we dive into Vesa's story and discover what it will be like when he leaves Earth behind in search of new adventures beyond our planet.
Vesa's 11 Year Dream
The moment has almost arrived for Finnish dreamer Vesa Heilala to blast off into space with
Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic. His journey began 11 years ago, when he got a loan,
emptied all of his savings, took out a 114 000 EUR loan from the bank, changed his 25 000 EUR Audi A8 to a 900 EUR Fiat Uno, and spent 151,000 euros on a ticket to join the company's space flight.
At that time, he thought he would be leaving in just three years, in 2013. However, his journey took a lot longer than expected. The time spent waiting has not been wasted, though. Vesa has been incredibly busy sharing his passion for space with the world.
Just one of the things he did was build his very own Rocket Uno. It's a 3-door Fiat Uno with blue-white leather upholstery and rocket pictures as a prop. Children never fail to recognize it while on the road; it's now known far and wide as the rocket car.
In addition to building an iconic vehicle to express his love for space, Vesa also created a website that he uses to tell his story. With it, he globally inspires others who dare to dream of space tourism, something that once upon a time was just a fairytale.
Vesa Heilala is ready for blast off, and he wants everybody to know about it.
Where It All Began
Vesa with his grandmother in the middle, ca 1967.
Born and raised in Iisalmi, Vesa had a wonderful childhood with his five siblings. He was the youngest of the bunch, and clearly, the biggest dreamer.
Vesa went on to major in information systems sciences at Jyväskylä University Economist in 1996. Afterwards, he joined the army as a paratrooper in Utti in 1987.
The army was a challenging yet exciting time of his life. He skydived a total of 23 times, and sleeping in snow caves was nothing out of the ordinary for him. Having to always be on standby pushed him to the limit every single day to defend his small country located right next to the biggest aggressor in history.
Why Does Vesa Want to Go into Space?
As a young boy, Vesa Heilala read a comic book called "Space Travel" and was a big fan of the Star Trek series. For Christmas, he received lego rockets at just seven years old. Since then, his passion has grown stronger and stronger.
While some dream of owning a lush summer cottage, and others wish to sail away on big blue waters, Vesa's dream is to embark on the ultimate space journey.
"Since I was a child, I have always been interested in space. It's a strange place that I have to get to see and experience myself. I am a fan of space movies and comics, and when I heard about the Virgin Galactic space tickets, I immediately contacted the travel agency that sold the tickets. It felt like it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I wasn't going to miss! So right away, I went to the office and booked a ticket. I was excited!'' - Vesa Heilala
This man has the guts to do the unthinkable. He wants to make his childhood dream come true at all costs, and nothing will stop him.
Passion is what Vesa Heilala is All About
The Finnish dreamer Vesa Heilala has a unique way of inspiring others to chase their wildest dreams. With his firm belief that anything is possible if you put your mind to it, and follow through with all the passion in your heart, you can rest assured that nothing will stop him from reaching his goal.
Over the years, Vesa has visited many museums and exhibitions to see rockets first hand. However, his very first visit was to the Kennedy Space Center in the early 1990s. Vesa was very impressed with its grandeur.
This is where Vesa's dream of space tourism really came to life, and it only grew stronger as time went on. He has been interested in astronomy since his childhood days, but Vesa soon realized that going into space was actually possible and that he could start the process right here in Finland.
Vesa's passion also led him to pursue other things, like becoming the vice-president of the Finnish Space Research Society, where they research and discuss possibilities and challenges with space. Like satellites, rockets and other space-related issues.
Becoming Part of the Space Scene
Vesa discussing his flight with Nasa Astronaut Timothy Kopra.
Vesa is not your average Finnish guy; his goal to be an astronaut never dwindled even though his dream seemed far out of reach at times.
Vesa Heilala has been working hard to become a part of the space scene. So far, he has met more than ten astronauts in many different locations and events. Many astronauts have lectured at the Finnish science centre Heureka in Vantaa. In addition to this, many Virgin Galactic meetings had astronauts onsite. But the most memorable encounter of all was with AI Worden in Florida back in 2019.
AI Worden was a NASA astronaut at the Apollo 15 lunar mission in 1971. Sadly, he passed away in March of 2020, but will always be remembered.
Although Vesa's space adventure has been pushed forward by a few years, he hasn't let that affect him. In fact, in the years leading up to it, he has attended so many events that have greatly enriched his life. He befriended so many legendary, interesting people and saw places that he could have only imagined before.
Space Tourism Itinerary
Vesa's schedule is very carefully planned, all the way down to the little details. Virgin Galactic advises of the departure time at least one hundred days before they shoot off into space. Before that, however, all participants embark upon a three-day training, and the fourth is when the adventure begins for Vesa.
Here is how it's all going to happen:
- The mother ship takes the Rocket to a height of 15 kilometres, which takes about an hour. Once there, the pilots start up their engines and detach from them as they blast off into space.
- Once this happens, then comes a very physical phase of the flight. The pilots of the spacecraft will steer the Rocket to a height of less than 100km.
- From there, it only takes around a minute to climb up. The acceleration is tremendous, about 6 G for 20 seconds. This means that for a moment, the Rocket reaches a speed of 4,000 kilometres per hour.
- When the Rocket reaches 90 kilometres, it begins to spin in a weightless state.
- Once this has happened, all passengers, including Vesa, will be able to remove their seatbelts and take in the view. With 18 windows onboard, passengers will be able to either look up at the dark space, or down towards our beautiful Earth.
- Finally, the return to the starting point begins. Since there's no fuel involved, the Rocket is expected to connect back to the departure ground, similar to a space shuttle. It's all handled by the attraction of the country.
Vesa Heilala is the first Finn to go into space. Join him on this historic voyage as we explore what it takes to become an astronaut, life beyond Earth's atmosphere, and more. Vesa is now a friend of TIDLÖS, and we're so happy about it.
" I am very humbled about having the rare opportunity to be the first Finn to represent this excellent brand." - Vesa Heilala
We're ecstatic to have Vesa onboard and part of the TIDLÖS family. He is truly an incredible individual whose work ethic never fails to impress us. All we can do now is wait patiently for Virgin Galactic's next flight into space in the next few years!