A pilot who grew up in Salina traveled to the edge of space on Thursday during a flight that may help pave the way for the development of commercial space travel.

Salina native Mark Stucky and his co-pilot C.J. Sturckow reached an altitude of 51 miles in a private spacecraft on Thursday, surpassing the threshold of 50 miles that Virgin Galactic, the company behind the flight, believes to be the boundary of space.

The test flight was part of Virgin Galactic’s mission to create a commercial space tourism industry.

Stucky was born in Minnesota and moved to Salina when he was a couple of months old. A 1976 graduate of Salina South High School, Stucky currently lives in California near the Mojave Desert, where the Virgin Galactic test flights take place.

Stucky's sister, Salinan Rachel Loersch, said her brother has always been a risk taker.

“He has flown over 170 different types of aircraft,” she said. “One time we went into the Cosmosphere and all of the types of planes that were on display, he had flown.”

Stucky's mother Lidia Pagan lives at the Holiday Resort Nursing Home in Salina. Loersch said Lidia has always been proud of her son.

In October 2014, a Virgin Galactic spaceship crashed and killed a pilot during a test flight. Stucky wasn’t on that flight but watched from mission control. With that memory in mind, Loersch waited nervously to see if her brother would return safely from his flight.

“Thursday morning, I was super nervous until I knew that he had landed safely,” she said. “His wife, my sister in law, texted me when they left the ground and texted me when they landed safely. I was pretty much glued to my phone until I knew he was safe.”

Stucky is scheduled to be the 2019 commencement speaker at Salina South High School's graduation ceremony.

In August, the New Yorker magazine published an in-depth profile of Mark Stucky entitled “Virgin Galactic’s Rocket Man." The article is available online.