Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo (SS2), which was designed to transport space tourists, exploded during a test flight over the Mojave Desert in California on Oct.31. One of the spacecraft's pilots died on impact while the other was seriously injured.
Besides the loss of life and damage caused by the accident, there are concerns that the incident will have a serious impact on space tourism. For one, security issues following the crash of the SS2 and Orbital Sciences' Antares rocket last week could deter potential space tourists.
Despite this, there are those who remain optimistic on the future of space tourism.
Bob Weiss, vice chairman of XPrize Foundation, said that people in the industry know the danger involved in the enterprise and that the incident won't likely cause a setback in space tourism. XPrize awarded the $10 million prize to the creators of SS2's predecessor, SpaceShipOne, a decade ago.
Space Tourism Society founder John Spencer said that the incident may have an impact on Virgin Galactic's likelihood of becoming the first commercial space line to bring tourists into space but he too was positive of the company's future.
"Virgin Galactic will eventually recover ... because of the extensive experience Branson and the Virgin brand has with one of the world's most successful airlines. Being first is cool, but that doesn't really matter when you're creating a long-term vision for an expanding industry,'' Spencer said.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is currently conducting an investigation on the cause of SS2's crash. Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson has expressed his intention to find out what went wrong that caused SS2's fatal explosion. The business magnate also said that his company will ensure that the space tourism dream will live on once the problem is identified and addressed.
"We owe it to our pilots to find out exactly what went wrong," Branson said during a press conference. "If we can overcome it, we will make absolutely certain that the dream lives on."
Branson said that it is still Virgin Galactic's goal to safely bring people to space, but his company is willing to return the payment of those who have already paid for their seats and want to get a refund.
The company already has over 700 reservations, including those made by celebrities Angelina Jolie, Justin Bieber and Leonardo DiCaprio. The seats were initially offered at a price of $200,000 each before it was increased to $250,000 in 2013.