Virgin Galactic chief Sir Richard Branson has announced his plans to go ahead with his space tourism venture inspite of a fatal crash during a test flight. One person has been confirmed dead while another is reported to be injured as Virgin Galactic’s space tourism craft crashed during a test flight over Mojave. Branson said that though he was saddened and shocked due the accident which he blames on a serious anomaly, he said he “would persevere with space travel.”
Wreckage of the ill-fated aircraft that crashed during a test flight
Earlier this year, Branson had announced that his SpaceShipTwo will enter service this year and he would be onboard the space craft with his children.
700 people, including Hollywood stars like Angelina Jolie , Leonardo Di Caprio and Tom Hanks have already paid between £125,000 and £155,000 to book a two-hour journey on Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo, which would include a planned five minutes of weightlessness.
Branson had said “Everybody who signs up knows this is the birth of a new space programme and understands the risks that go with that. But every person wants to go on the first flight”.
On Saturday, Branson said “Space is hard – but worth it. We will persevere and move forward together”.
He said “This was the latest part of an extensive test flight program and the 55th time SpaceShipTwo had flown. It was WhiteKnightTwo’s 173rd flight and the 35th time SpaceShipTwo had flown freely. The testing program has also included extensive ground testing of all parts of the spaceship. We’ve always known that the road to space is extremely difficult – and that every new transportation system has to deal with bad days early in their history”.
Branson added he would “cooperate fully with all the authorities involved in the investigation, and share more information when possible”.
“While not a NASA mission, the pain of this tragedy will be felt by all the men and women who have devoted their lives to exploration. Space flight is incredibly difficult, and we commend the passion of all in the space community who take on risk to push the boundaries of human achievement,” said Branson.
George Whitesides, the CEO of Branson’s company summed up by saying: “We owe it to the folks who were flying these vehicles, as well as those who’ve been working so hard on them, to understand this and to move forward. And that is what we’ll do”.
The company meanwhile issued statement saying, “Virgin Galactic’s partner Scaled Composites conducted a powered test flight of SpaceShipTwo earlier today. During the test, the vehicle suffered a serious anomaly resulting in the loss of the vehicle. The WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft landed safely. The Virgin Galactic team is cooperating with our partners at Scaled Composites and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) as well as local authorities”.
Branson had initially planned to go ahead with his first civilian space flight by the end of 2014, with the spacecraft reaching 62 miles above the Earth. Branson had said earlier “The biggest worry I had was re-entry. Nasa has lost about 3% of everyone who’s gone into space, and re-entry has been their biggest problem”.