Branson pledges Virgin Galactic has 'renewed sense of purpose' in wake of crash

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Jan 5, 2015, 10:31 AM EST

The quest for privatized spaceflight suffered a tragic setback in late 2014 with the fatal crash of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo — but that doesn’t mean the company is backing off its plan to get humanity into space.

After taking a few months to process the tragic crash that killed one of the two pilots testing the experimental space plane, founder Richard Branson has released a statement addressing the company’s position and role moving forward.

Not surprisingly, Branson said they will not let the tragedy derail the company’s hopes to develop spacefaring technologies that will hopefully change the world and open up the solar system to everyone (well, everyone who can afford it).

Check out the statement below:

“For all of us in the Virgin Galactic family, I’m sure 2014 will sadly be defined by that fateful moment on an October Friday, when excitement and eager anticipation, turned in an instant, to disbelief and shock.

The following morning surrounded by our wonderful and talented team in Mojave, I said that humanity's greatest achievements often come out of our greatest pain and, having had a few weeks to think things over, I believe that now, more than ever.

Part of the reason I do, is that an event such as we have just experienced, brings out the best of so many people in so many ways.  We have had some pretty hairy moments in some of our previous adventures, from ballooning that didn’t quite go to plan to a mid-Atlantic sinking, but I, and am sure many others involved, have never experienced anything quite as intense as the destruction of our spaceship and the heart-breaking loss of its pilot.

As I travelled from my home to Mojave that Friday evening, I found myself questioning seriously for the first time, whether in fact it was right to be backing the development of something that could result in such tragic circumstances. In short – was Virgin Galactic and everything it has stood for and dreamt of achieving, really worth it?

I got a very firm answer to that question immediately when I landed in Mojave. From the designers, the builders, the engineers, the pilots and the whole community who passionately believed - and still believe - that truly opening space and making it accessible and safe is of vital importance to all our futures.

I heard the same, heartfelt message at the incredibly moving memorial service for Mike Alsbury a week later and I heard and saw it in the thousands of messages that poured into my office from all around the world – and in one case, even beyond the world, from the astronauts on the International Space Station.  I also heard, and saw, and felt it, from our Future Astronauts in an outpouring of support and solidarity which was at once humbling and uplifting.

When this story is told in years to come, I believe alongside the bravery of Mike and the incredible tale of Pete’s survival, will stand the story of the commitment, loyalty and passion of the world’s first private astronauts. And so Virgin Galactic goes on, with an unwavering commitment to safety and a renewed sense of purpose.

Thanks to everyone who has supported Virgin Galactic in 2014 and here’s to the next chapter in 2015.”

The SpaceShipTwo accident is one of the first tragedies in the private space arena, and sadly, it likely won’t be the last. But the sacrifice made to push the limits of what humanity can do is undeniably important — and it’s nice to see Branson acknowledge that, while still never forgetting what’s been lost to reach this point.

(Via Virgin Galactic)