Virgin Galactic’s Space Ship Two space tourism craft crashed in the California desert.
The craft was flying a manned test when it experienced what the company described as “a serious anomaly”.
It was undergoing its first powered test flight since January over the Mojave Desert, north of Los Angeles.
Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson said he was “shocked and saddened” by the “tragic loss”.
In a blog post, he said everyone involved in the project was “deeply saddened”.
“All our thoughts are with the families of everyone affected by this tragic event,” he wrote.
He said that he was flying to California immediately, describing it as “one of the most difficult trips I have ever had to make”.
“Space is hard – but worth it. We will persevere and move forward together,” he added.
Both pilots were employed by Scaled Composites, the company that designed the craft. One was pronounced dead at the scene while the other was transported to a local hospital in an unknown condition. In a statement, Virgin Galactic said the “vehicle suffered a serious anomaly resulting in the loss of Space Ship Two”.
The aircraft that the spacecraft was launched from, known as White Knight 2, landed safely, Virgin Galactic said.
Antares Rocked failed just after Launch
Many scientists, engineers and students watched years of effort crash to the ground this week, as the Antares Rocked plunged to the ground, six seconds after launch. It shows that doing science in space is difficult, time-consuming and sometimes frustrating.
The students in Kamloops, B.C. who watched their crystal growth experiment go up in flames had spent a year proposing it to NASA, developing it and getting it on board the spacecraft. Theirs was one of dozens of other science experiments on board the doomed rocket, including 26 mini-satellites – called cubesats – that were to be released from the space station as a low-cost way of monitoring the Earth’s environment.
Antares rocket explosion: Kamloops students lose science experiment
CBC Radio’s Quirks and Quarks
Space is a unique environment to do science, because it is the only place where the effects of gravity can be removed for long periods of time. In microgravity, crystals grow larger and more pure, flames take on a different shape, plants will grow in any direction. Then, of course, there are all the changes taking place in the human body. But if you want to study those phenomena in space, first you have to design an experiment; then you have to get it up there.
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