Sir Richard Branson, the billionaire entrepreneur and founder of Virgin Galactic, defended his commercial space program Monday, just days after a deadly crash during a test flight.
“Absolutely it’s worth the risks,” he told TODAY’s Matt Lauer, saying the space program will bring thrills to passengers, as well as technological benefits to society. A function to help the spacecraft make a safe descent may have been deployed early, the National Transportation Safety Board said late Sunday.
The program’s SpaceShipTwo aircraft broke up in mid-air over the Mojave Desert during a test flight last Friday. The explosion killed co-pilot Michael Alsbury and seriously injured the pilot, Peter Siebold, who parachuted to the ground.
“It’s been a horrible setback,” Branson said of the explosion. “But we owe it to (Alsbury) to continue and that we will do.”
Branson also said:
- His company’s team, including 400 engineers, continue to work on fixing what went wrong. “They’re going to move forward and create a spaceship company that will hopefully be one day the marvel of the world,” he said.
- He will stand by the NTSB's findings: “If we can find what the NTSB has pointed to, if that ends up to be the case, that is something which is easy to fix, we can make absolutely certain that it cannot be done again in the future.”
- On what his space program offers: In addition to fulfilling the wishes of “millions of people” who want to travel to space, the program also will install “massive arrays of satellites” to help connect people without mobile phone service or Internet access.