British tycoon Richard Branson has vowed to continue with his star-studded space flight scheme following the tragic accident on Friday which killed a test pilot.
The Virgin Galactic project, which boasts celebrities including Ashton Kutcher and Leonardo DiCaprio on the future passenger list, appeared to have been thrown into jeopardy after the SpaceShip Two rocket crashed in California’s Mojave desert, killing co-pilot Michael Alsbury.
However, Branson is adamant none of his famous ticket-holders have handed back their fares in the aftermath of the crash, and he insists safety will always be the company’s number one priority.
He tells BBC News:
“I’ve spent 30 years running three airlines without incident, we take safety very seriously… Safety is all consuming for Virgin… People out there are warning that flights should not fly because there could be an explosion – it’s all garbage… We are not going to do anything that takes any risks…
“I am absolutely confident that Virgin Galactic will go up and it will do something extremely important for Great Britain… Yes, it’s been a massive setback but we are determined to continue… We will have to get on and prove them wrong… I’d be surprised if we didn’t have some (passengers) drop out, but to date we’ve had new people sign up on the day of the accident in support and the hundreds which have signed up before have all sent in beautiful letters of support… We have been incredibly grateful for the fantastic support from all over the world.”
Other famous faces planning to take the two-and-a-half-hour ride into space on the rocket plane include pop stars Lady Gaga, Katy Perry and Justin Bieber, and actors Tom Hanks and Angelina Jolie. Wannabe astronauts have reportedly paid up to $250,000 per ticket.