Aerospace experts: Virgin Galactic mishap won’t dampen space tourism – The Patriot-News – PennLive.com

SpaceShipTwo

Wreckage lies near the site where a Virgin Galactic space tourism rocket, SpaceShipTwo, exploded and crashed in Mojave, Calif. on Friday. The explosion killed a pilot aboard and seriously injured another while scattering wreckage in Southern California’s Mojave Desert, witnesses and officials said. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

While Friday’s explosion of VirginGalactic’s SpaceShipTwo is a setback for the company, the incident is unlikely to derail the push to develop the space tourism industry, according to experts interviewed by USA Today.

Bob Weiss, president and vice chairman of the XPrize Foundation, told USA Today:

“I don’t think that overall it’s going to set back space tourism. The people that are directly involved with this effort understood the inherent risks . .. .This was pioneering work. Test flight always has risks involved and those risks are taken so that they can be mitigated or eliminated as much as possible, whether it’s for an airplane or space craft when they’re made operational.”

Weiss’ foundation awarded the $10 million prize to the creators of SpaceShipOne, the predecessor to Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo.

According to eyewitnesses and officials, SpaceShipTwo’s rocket motor exploded shortly after the after a plane designed to take it to high altitude released the craft. On of the spaceship’s pilots was killed and the other critically injured.

The incident follows Tuesday’s explosion of an unmanned rocket shortly after takeoff at Virginia’s Wallops Flight Facility.

Pedro Llanos, a professor at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, likened the accidents to problems encountered during the early days of space exploration:

“The reason it happened in the past is because we were testing new technologies. It’s happening now because we are pushing technology’s boundaries, to move space exploration forward.”

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