Sky News | 6 November 2014
By Jonathan Samuels, Australia Correspondent
ONE OF THE first passengers to sign up to go into space with Virgin Galactic says he will not be put off by the recent tragic test flight explosion.
Australian science journalist Wilson da Silva is on the list to be among the first 100 “space tourists”, after agreeing to pay $250,000 (£156,000) for a ticket.
“I desperately want to try space,” he told Sky News. “I think that Vasco da Gama, if he was around today, would be exploring space. This is really exciting, to be able to push humanity beyond the boundaries of the Earth.”
Pilot Michael Tyner Alsbury, 39, died during the test flight over the Mojave desert, a second pilot, Peter Siebold, 43, was injured after parachuting out of the space craft.
Both worked for Scaled Composites, the company developing the spaceship for Virgin Galactic.
Would-be space tourist Mr da Silva says almost all of those who are signed up are still backing the project.
“We all feel for the pilots and the families involved. This is a risky venture, no one has had any doubt of that. In the beginning of aviation it was the same sort of thing.
“Between 1920 and 1926 one in four pilots was killed every year in an aviation accident. So it’s no way near as dangerous as that but it doesn’t mean it’s not risky. The real heroes are the test pilots who are willing to put their lives on the line.”
Mr da Silva also disclosed that the 700-plus people who are signed up to the Virgin Galactic trips communicate with each other on social media.
“There’s a closed Facebook page where we exchange comments,” he said. “Most people have been heartbroken. They feel that the dream is worth it and they are hoping and rooting for Virgin Galactic to continue.”
Federal accident investigators said on Monday that tiny pieces of the experimental spaceship have been found 35 miles (56 km) from the main wreckage area.
Parts from the craft are now being moved to hangars as the investigation continues.
The National Transportation Board has not concluded what shattered the aircraft.
Initial results show that a system to slow the space plane’s descent was deployed too soon.
Wilson da Silva says he has joined others in contacting Sir Richard Branson to offer his support.
“I think at the end of the day it’s going to happen someday as long as they stick with it,” he said. “I hope they’ll stick with it, and I’ll get a dream come true.”