The new question now rising after the Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo rocket plane crash is whether the co-pilot, Mike Alsbury who died in the fatal crash will be count as the “fallen astronaut” or not?
Last year Mike Alsbury was honored by the Society of Experimental Test Pilots for a technical presentation on the project, receiving an award that’s previously been won by test-pilot astronauts ranging from Canada’s Chris Hadfield and Apollo 13 spaceflier Fred Haise to X-15 pioneers Scott Crossfield and Bill Dana.
…we have fed our sea for a thousand years
And she calls us, still unfed,
Though there’s never a wave of all her waves
But marks our English dead:
We have strewn our best to the weed’s unrest,
To the shark and the sheering gull.
If blood be the price of admiralty,
Lord God, we ha’ paid in full!
The poet, Rudyard Kipling, wrote the above poem titled “Song of the Dead” in 1893 to honour English seamen who lost their lives at sea while navigating the world’s seas and uncharted oceans. But today, the United States has gone past just composing poems to erecting memorials in honour of seamen and airmen who lose their lives in the service of their country.
But does Michael Alsbury, the test pilot who lost his life last Friday while testing the flight of the Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo qualify to be added to the monument of “fallen astronauts” managed by the Astronauts Memorial Foundation? The post-humus honour that can be given any fallen serviceman is to include his name in the national memorial of his country for remembrance, but the director of Astronauts Memorial Foundation, Thad Altman, states that Alsbury doen’t qualify. Why?
“Alsbury doesn’t quite meet our criteria. Qualification is predicated on being a member of the United States astronaut corps on a government-sponsored space mission,” Altman had said. The implication of this is that Alsbury does not qualify to be included on the memorial because the US Congress designated the foundation as a national memorial to honour only astronaut fatalities that die in space programs funded by the government or on a government flight mission. Altman died in a commercial flight that belonged to Virgin Galactic, owned by US billionaire Richard Branson.
However, since the board of advisers of the Astronauts Memorial Foundation will be meeting next month, director Altman states that they could review their criteria to see if Alsbury could be included in the memorial. He said “the Astronaut Memorial Foundation is deeply saddened by the death of Michael Alsbury during the test flight of SpaceShipTwo. We recognize and value the contribution that Virgin Galactic is making toward commercialized space flight and know that his loss will not be in vain.” And then he added, “we’re ready to re-examine our requirements.”