Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson told the media this morning in the Mojave Desert that he will continue to fight for his dream of commercial space travel, despite yesterday's fatal tragedy that destroyed the SpaceShipTwo during a test flight. "We will make absolutely certain that the dream lives on," Branson said, adding that "we owe it to our test pilots to find out exactly what went wrong."
After some delays, the company had planned to launch its first space tourism flights sometime next year at a cost of $250,000 per seat, but yesterday's accident has shuffled those plans. Branson did not clarify the nature of the "inflight anomaly" that led to the crash, but the accident killed one of the two test pilots. He has been identified as Michael Alsbury, 39, according to The Los Angeles Times. The other pilot, who was seriously injured by the crash, has not yet been named.
"We owe it to our test pilots to find out exactly what went wrong."
Branson applauded the pilots today, saying, "We are determined to honor the bravery of the pilots and the teams here by learning from this tragedy." He added, "We do understand the risks involved, and we’re not going to push on blindly. To do so would be an insult to all those affected by this tragedy ... We are going to learn from what went wrong, discover how we can improve safety and performance, and then move forwards together."
The billionaire founder, in prepared comments, noted that "we are determined to find out what went wrong" and will "cooperate fully" with investigators. He did note that "it is too early for me to add any details of the investigation at this stage."
Though shaken by yesterday's events, Branson seemed resolute in his desire to continue his push for space tourism. "In testing the boundaries of human capabilities and technologies, we are standing on the shoulders of giants. Yesterday we fell short."
"We will now comprehensively assess the results of the crash, and are determined to learn from this ... Only then can we move forward, united behind a collective desire to push the boundaries of human endeavor."