Saturday, 1 November 2014

Virgin commits to space venture despite crash

LONDON: Virgin Galactic will continue its space mission despite the crash of its space craft on Friday during a test flight over Mojave.

Virgin chief Sir Richard Branson has vowed to continue his space tourism venture despite the fatal crash.

The founder of the Virgin Group said he was "shocked and saddened" by the crash caused "by a serious anomaly" that killed one of the pilots and left the other with serious injuries.

Branson however said he would "persevere" with space travel.

Branson had said earlier this year that its SpaceShipTwo will enter service this year and he would be onboard the space craft with his children.

Almost 700 people, including Tom Hanks, Leonardo Di Caprio and Angelina Jolie have 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".

He quoted NASA which said "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".

Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides 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".

Virgin Galactic said in a statement "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's plan was to carry out the first civilian space flight by the end of this year, 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".