Despite crashing their latest test model in what was easily the most covered test flight crash in recent history, Virgin Galactic went on the record stating that they will resume test flights as early as next summer if a suitable replacement craft can be developed.
Even though this may seem like a rash decision coming days after the tragic crash, Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides has made a string of interviews in an attempt to regain public support.
“We’re going to take our time, make sure that we build this vehicle carefully, strongly and safely,” Whitesides told CNN in an interview.
When asked how Virgin Galactic could move forward, from the incident, Whitesides commented in an interview with the The Associated Press that continuing the project, “provided some solace to all of us, and I think there’s sort of a therapeutic benefit to folks to be able to put their energies into constructive work”.
“There was no question it was a tragic setback, but it’s one from which we can recover,” he said. “With Serial No. 2, we’ll be putting a stronger, even better ship into initial commercial service and I think we’ll be able to get back into test flights soon and carry forward.”
In addition to reassuring the public on Virgin Galactic, Whitesides also touched upon the current investigation surrounding the crash.
“The early results of the investigation suggest that we’ll be able to figure out any potential fixes and that they will not imply serious changes to the air frame,” Whitesides said in a press release.
“Clearly, our No. 1 job right now is to understand what happened and to make sure that it doesn’t happen again,” said Whitesides.
The National Transportation Safety Board, currently leading the charge on the investigation, has ruled out issues with the engines as well as fuel tank and is now examining whether the feathering system deployed improperly. This would have led to the shuttle being unable to regulate speed.
In an attempt to clear the air surrounding the tragic loss of Pilot Mike Alsbury, of the pilots of the galactic crash, Whitesides commented that, “There’s a reason why test pilots are respected as some of the bravest and toughest people in the world,” he said. “It’s because they put themselves willingly into risky places so that they can make things safer for other people to fly later.”
Despite the risks, Whitesides reassures us that the sacrifices made by Pilot Alsbury are not in vain.
“Space is important to all of our futures… At the end of the day, one of the things that I think is most powerful is that we’ll be able to get a new perspective on our planet as hundreds and eventually millions of people are able to go into space,” Whitesides said.
Despite Whitesides’ attempts to bolster support, multiple customers signed up for the first interplanetary shuttle are asking for refunds. Time will tell if Virgin Galactic will actually be able to deliver on its promises.