The crash of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo rocket plane last month has had a chilling effect on the desires of commercial passengers who initially wanted to ride the ship into low Earth orbit, the company’s chief executive officer has revealed.
Whitesides said the Virgin Galactic team is strong enough to overcome the challenges put before it and keep pushing even in the face of tragedy, adding that opening up access to space is a goal that’s “deeply worthy.”George Whitesides
George Whitesides says that around 24 prospective passengers have decided to back out of the trip in the wake of the crash that led to the death of Michael Alsbury, the space plane’s co-pilot. This is a drop in the bucket compared to the around 800 reservations for the nascent commercial spaceflight company, with luminaries such as Leonardo diCaprio, Angelina Jolie and Stephen Hawking all still interested in catching a flight on SpaceShipTwo.
Still, around two dozen interested parties decided to ask for a refund of their $250,000 ticket price after the October 31 crash, indicating that some passengers are indeed re-thinking their decision to allow themselves to be strapped into a tin can filled with explosive rocket fuel for a few cheap thrills. Whitesides said that the fact that a double handful of passengers have looked for a refund isn’t necessarily surprising, though he remains optimistic on the prospects of space tourism, especially in light of Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson‘s dream of making space travel accessible for everyday people somewhere down the road.
The overwhelming majority of passengers have been telling Virgin Galactic that they’re still interested and that the company should keep going, the CEO said. Whitesides said the Virgin Galactic team is strong enough to overcome the challenges put before it and keep pushing even in the face of tragedy, adding that opening up access to space is a goal that’s “deeply worthy.”
Even with the 24 cancellations, there are still prospective passengers willing to throw the dice. According to Clare Pelly, astronaut experience manager for Virgin Galactic, an additional two passengers have signed up for the suborbital flight service in the wake of the tragic crash. Other ticket-holders have come forward to publicly acknowledge the risks of space tourism, adding that these risks are part of such a cutting-edge program like SpaceShipTwo.
This archive content was originally published November 11, 2014 (www.betawired.com)