(MOJAVE, Calif.) — Virgin Galactic founder Sir Richard Branson said Saturday the company “fell short” when its space tourism rocket ship broke apart during a test flight, killing one pilot and injuring another, but said the team would learn from the crash and “push on.”
“In testing the boundaries of human capabilities and technologies, we are standing on the shoulders of giants,” he said. “Yesterday, we fell short.”
Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo broke apart Friday after being released from a carrier aircraft at high altitude over the Mojave Desert. One pilot was found dead inside the wreckage and another parachuted out and was taken to a hospital for treatment.
“We are not going to push on blindly,” Branson said Saturday at the Mojave Air and Space Port. “We’re going to learn from what went wrong … discover how we can improve safety and performance.”
The crash happened during the spacecraft’s fourth test flight under rocket power.
“The dream of space travel will live on,” Branson said. “We would love to finish what we started some years ago.”
The prospects for commercial space travel should not be dismissed because of the incident Friday, he said, comparing it to commercial air travel.
“In the early days of aviation, there were incidents and then aviation became very safe,” he said. “In the early days of commercial space travel, there have been incidents and then we hope that one day, the test pilots will enable people to be able to go to space safely and that is our wish and desire.”
The National Transportation Safety Board began its investigation into the cause of the crash on Saturday.
At least a dozen investigators from the NTSB will examine the crash site, collect data, and interview witnesses, according to Christopher A. Hart, acting chairman for the NTSB.
On Saturday night, Hart said that investigators will be on site gathering information for four to seven days, but putting it all together could take as long as 12 months.
Branson said that anyone who signed up for a chance at space travel, which costs as much as $250,000 per person, can have their money refunded.
Several hundred people have already bought seats on future space flights, including Ashton Kutcher, Lady Gaga, and Justin Bieber. But Branson said Virgin Galactic, his company developing private space flight, has not used any of the money.
Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio
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