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article imageCrash has Richard Branson, Virgin Galactic, searching for answers

By Marcus Hondro     Nov 2, 2014 in Technology
Richard Branson, billionaire founder of the Virgin Galactic space program, has vowed to push on after a crash that killed one pilot and seriously injured another. He added they would not "push on blindly" but first find out what went wrong.
"Yesterday, we fell short," Mr. Branson told media Saturday at the Mojave Air and Space Port. "We'll now comprehensively assess the results of the crash and are determined to learn from this and move forward. We are determined to find out what went wrong,"
With an ultimate intention of taking those who can afford it 100 kilometres (62 miles) into space to experience the view of Earth from up there and to experience weightlessness, Mr. Branson and Virgin Galactic saw that goal take a step backwards when their test flight ended in disaster.
SpaceShip Two breaks apart in flight
Friday over the Mojave Desert, the (150 km. north of L.A.) SpaceShipTwo, broke apart shortly after being released from the the jet which had transported it up in the air to its high-altitude launch. Debris was spread over a wide area and the investigation is in the hands of the National Transportation Safety Board.
"That spread of the debris field tells us that it was an in-flight separation," the acting chairman of the NTSB, Christopher Hart, said Saturday night. "Of course, the question then is: 'Why did that happen?' So that's what we are exploring; that's what our investigators are examining."
Michael Tyner Alsbury, 39, has been identified as the co-pilot who was killed in the crash; his body was found in the main body of the craft. The injured pilot, now in hospital, is 43-year-old Peter Siebold, who managed to parachute from the SpaceShipTwo and was found some 2 kilometres from the main debris site. He is expected to make a full recovery.
Some 700 people have already put down deposits on a ticket to fly into space with Virgin Galactic when it is ready for commercial flights. The full cost is $250,000 and those who've already staked a claim on a ticket include Canadian singer Justin Bieber, actors Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, celebrity Paris Hilton, Princess Beatrice and physicist Steven Hawking.
The program seems farther off now that it has encountered a crash resulting in the loss of a life and Virgin Galactic officials say it could take up to a year to get back on track. But Branson is determined to both take as much time as needed and to get it right. "We owe it to our pilots to find out exactly what went wrong," Mr. Branson said. "If we can overcome it, we will make absolutely certain that the dream lives on."
Mr. Branson said that since the crash none of those who have put down deposits on a commercial space flight have asked for a refund.
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