The CEO of Virgin Galactic, George Whitesides, has declared that his ‘resolve is unshaken’ claiming that the support for Virgin Galactic has far outweighed the criticism. And despite the recent crash, which killed a co-pilot during testing, the first space tourism flights will push on. Tests on their new new spacecraft; SpaceShip Two serial 2 will begin within six months, once completed, it will be a matter ‘of months, not years’ before the commercial flights into space are launched.
However, the investigation into the recent accident is likely to take more than a year, and could potentially hold up the entire project. Michael Alsbury, 39, died when the aircraft crashed in the Mojave Desert in California, at the end of October. And the pilot of the spacecraft, Peter Siebold, 43, is currently recovering in hospital. The National Transportation Safety Board is currently looking into what exactly happened, the main focus being whether Alsbury unlocked the ship’s movable tail section too early.
Virgin Galactic have always been very optimistic in discussing when they would launch their commercial space flights. The Virgin founder, Sir Richard Brandon, had been vocal that it would be ready within the Spring of next year. However, many now remain sceptical in the haste in which Virgin are trying to make this happen.
In a recent interview, which was broadcasted on channel 4, Sir Richard Branson hit back at the British press for their reporting for the incident – ‘Virgin Galatic is at the cutting edge of space… most sensible commentators believe we are ahead of the pack as far as taking people into space, and I believe we will succeed.’ Branson went on to use an example, ‘that space travel, at this stage is a little bit like the early airline travel of the 1920s, 1930 – that is the kind of risks you take – Virgin Galactic obviously want to make it safer than that.’[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1pYNE-47Vig]
In speaking to the Daily Telegraph, Mr Whitesides stated; ‘My resolve is unshaken. I have always known that this would be a challenge. We didn’t think we would have to through this type of event, but I have got a strong team and a team that knows we should open up space access as it is a deeply worthy goal.’
So far, around 24 passengers, out of the 800 people who signed up to the space flights, have requested that their $250, 000 (around £157, 000 ticket price is refunded.