Richard Branson has said Virgin Galactic will continue with its space tourism venture after the fatal crash of one of its spaceships during a test flight.
“Space is hard - but worth it. We will persevere and move forward together,” Branson wrote in a blog post as he headed to the crash site in the Mojave Desert in California, north east of Los Angeles.
One pilot of SpaceShipTwo was killed and a second injured, when the craft experienced an “in-flight anomaly” causing it to explode during the flight.
The entrepreneur said those involved in the project at Virgin Galactic and Scaled Composite, the maker of its spaceships, were “in shock at this devastating loss”.
“Everyone at Virgin Galactic, The Spaceship Company and Scaled Composites is deeply saddened by today’s events. All our thoughts are with the families of everyone affected by this tragic event, and we are doing everything we can to support them," said Branson.
Virgin Galactic will be cooperating with the investigation to discover the cause of the accident, which will involve the US National Transportation Board (NTSB), Federal Aviation Administration and local authorities in the area.
George Whitesides, Virgin Galactic’s Chief executive said at a press conference:
Our primary thoughts at this moment are with the crew and family, and we’re doing everything we can for them now. I’d like to recognize the work of the first responders who we work with in the Antelope Valley for their efforts on behalf of the team. We’re also thinking of the team members that we have at the companies that have been working on this program. Space is hard and today was a tough day. We are going to be supporting the investigation as we figure out what happened today. We’re going to get through it. The future rests in many ways on hard days like this, but we believe we owe it to the team, that has been working so hard on this endeavor, to understand this and to move forward. And that is what we’ll do.
It was the 55th flight for SpaceShipTwo after its first in January. WhiteKnightTwo, a second jet which launches the spaceship into high altitude and landed safely yesterday, had flown 173 times. The craft have also undergone extensive ground testing.
“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,” said Branson.