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article imageCan space tourism survive 2 explosions in one week?

By Holly L. Walters     Nov 3, 2014 in Science
The crash of Virgin Galactic's SpaceShip Two left a pilot dead and another critically injured on October 31. The accident also created a long list of questions about the future of space tourism -- the main one being if it will even survive the fallout?
More than 700 people have bought a ticket for a future flight, including celebrities Leonardo DiCaprio, Justin Bieber, Stephen B. Hawking and Ashton Kutcher. Now they have to determine whether or not they want to continue investing in this movement or request a refund of their $250,000 purchase. WND is probably one of the news outlets that put it the best regarding the subject reporting that, "It's hard to see Brad Pitt and Angelia Jolie taking to the air anytime soon"
Will Virgin Galactic Move Forward?
It would have been understandable if Virgin Galactic made the decision to at least temporarily pull the plug on their space tourism project, especially when you consider the fact that SpaceShip Two's crash was the second private space travel explosion in less than a week (the first was the ill-fated Antares rocket that exploded just after liftoff on Oct. 28). There is even speculation that private space won’t be able to survive, having experienced two explosions in just four days.
However, the founder of Virgin Group, Richard Branson, has made it clear that the ultimate goal of taking tourists into space has not changed. CNN reported that Branson did concede that it is critical not to "push on blindly," and there is currently an investigation underway that is anticipated to take up to a year to be completed.
Branson is relying on his team to analyze all of the available data so that they can determine exactly what went wrong. He went on to state that moving forward without learning from this experience and utilizing it to improve the safety and performance of future spaceships would be "an insult to all those affected by this tragedy."
Will the Disaster Impact Space Tourists?
Branson's words make it clear that he and Virgin Galactic are dedicated to the idea of moving forward, but this does not mean that famous ticket holders such as Bieber and DiCaprio will be able to board a flight anytime soon. The reality is that two space travel related accidents occurring in one week has shaken investor confidence, and this is highlighted by declining stock prices.
This setback will almost certainly add at least another year to the anticipated timetable of the company's first commercial flight, and it will also force people who are interested in flying into space to face the cold, hard facts about how dangerous an endeavor space travel can be.
Statistics Regarding Spaceship Launches
The percentage of spaceship launches that have led to fatalities is astronomically high. In fact, if commercial U.S. airlines had the same success ratio as the space shuttles that were once used by NASA, then we would be dealing with an astounding 272 fatal crashes every single day. NASA's overall success rate was 95 percent, but U.S. airlines have a much more appealing success rate of 99.99 percent.
When you consider how nervous travelers get when there is an incident with an airplane, you can easily imagine how catastrophic accidents such as the one that happened on October 31 could be to the entire space tourism industry.
Even though things currently look bleak for private space travel companies such as Virgin Galactic, this is not likely to be the end of their story. Far too many people are fascinated with the idea of going into space, and this will inspire them to put their fears aside and take a chance on a commercial spaceflight.
However, it will be critical for all of these companies to carefully analyze the results of the two ongoing investigations so that they can create a safer experience for pilots and ticket holders.
More about Richard branson, Virgin galactic, Space travel, Antares rocket
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