Pilot killed in Virgin Galactic crash named as Michael Alsbury
THE pilot killed when a Virgin Galactic spacecraft exploded in California has been identified.
Michael Alsbury died on Friday when the craft blew up during a test flight. Another pilot, who has yet to be named, escaped but was seriously hurt.
Alsbury, 39, died immediately when the craft tore apart, Kern’s County Coroner’s Office told the LA Times.
Michelle Saling, Alsbury’s widow, told MailOnline: “I have lost the love of my life. I am living in hell right now.”
Virgin Galactic owner, the British tycoon Sir Richard Branson, said his dream of commercial space travel remains alive but his company will not “press on blindly” without knowing why its spacecraft crashed.
Grim find ... wreckage lies near the site where a Virgin Galactic space tourism rocket, S
Grim find ... wreckage lies near the site where a Virgin Galactic space tourism rocket, SpaceShipTwo, exploded and crashed. Ringo H.W. Chiu/AP Source: AP
Speaking to reporters on Saturday after arriving in the California facility which had been the hub of Virgin Galactic’s ambitious space program, Branson said safety remained his paramount concern.
“We owe it to our test pilots to find out exactly what went wrong, and once we’ve found out what went wrong, if we can overcome it, we’ll make absolutely certain that the dream lives on,” Branson said.
“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.
Investigation ... Members of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) arrive befor
Investigation ... Members of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) arrive before dawn at the Mojave Air and Space Port in Mohave, California. Picture: Josh Edelson/AFP Source: AFP
The craft, which is still in its test phase and which normally carries two pilots, had been carried aloft on Friday on a bigger aircraft known as WhiteKnightTwo and then released for a test of its rocket engine.
“SpaceShipTwo has been released by WhiteKnightTwo, and is now flying freely,” Virgin Galactic wrote in a blow-by-blow account of the flight, adding: “Ignition! SpaceShipTwo is flying under rocket power again.”
The next tweet announced an “anomaly.”
Fateful moment ... The Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo rocket explodes in the air during a t
Fateful moment ... The Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo rocket explodes in the air during a test flight on Friday. Picture: Kenneth Brown/AP Source: AP
Onlookers saw at least one parachute from the craft.
Witnesses at the crash site, about 193km north of downtown Los Angeles, reported seeing a body still strapped into its seat.
Virgin Galactic had hoped to start ferrying wealthy customers to the edge of space in 2015, charging $US250,000 ($270,500) per person for a ticket on the company’s six-seater SpaceShipTwo. Among the celebrities already signed up are Justin Bieber and Angelina Jolie.
More than 500 people have already reserved seats for a minutes-long suborbital flight.
Sir Richard told reporters on Saturday that anyone who wanted a refund would be able to get one.
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