Peter Siebold is lucky to be alive following the ill-fated crash of the Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo in the Mojave Dessert. His pilot colleague, Mike Alsbury, was not so lucky and his mangled body was found among the wreckage of the crashed plane. Siebold had fallen from an altitude of 50,000 feet without any oxygen after managing to unbuckle his seat straps when he was ejected from the exploding plane – his parachute unfurled and managed to land him safely, but not without some broken rib, lung concussion, broken humerus, and injured shoulder.
Speaking at home where he is presently recuperating, Siebold noted that he must have been lucky to be alive. “I must have lost consciousness at first. I can’t remember anything about what happened but I must have come to during the fall. I remember waving to the chase plane and giving them the thumbs-up to tell them I was OK.” He was thrown off the space plane at high altitude and got lucky unbuckling his seat belt as he dropped, but thanks to his parachute which automatically opened up to save him from a fatal fall that would have fixed him for good.
Although the National Transportation and Safety Boarding agency has provided some preliminary investigations into the causes of the crash, initial reports indicate that it was due to pilot’s errors. The tail section of the test plane was supposed to have only been unlocked when the plane’s speed reached 1.4 times the speed of sound, to enable aerodynamic actions hold the tail in place; but the late pilot, Alsbury had miscalculated and unlocked the tail section earlier than needed before the ship attained the specified speed.
The NTSB team continues investigating the remote and direct causes of the crash of the first SpaceShipTwo and will release their full reports next year, even as US billionaire Richard Branson has vowed to continue designing and constructing the second SpaceShipTwo which will still be used for space tourism after his own family becomes the first passengers to tour space.