2 Nov 2014

Kiwis keep space tourism bookings

7:33 pm on 2 November 2014

House of Travel says the explosion yesterday of a Virgin Galactic spaceship on a test flight in California will have an effect on bookings for space tours, but it won't be long-lasting.

A piece of debris is seen near the scene of the crash of Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo near Cantil, California.

A piece of debris is seen near the scene of the crash of Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo near Cantil, California. Photo: REUTERS

The travel agency's commercial director, Brent Thomas, said none of the six New Zealanders who have booked to travel to the edge of space with Virgin Galactic have cancelled since the crash, which killed one pilot.

Mr Thomas said an investigation would need to be completed into what went wrong before the space tourism programme could resume.

"What we'll find is that there'll be a delay before we get any further bookings. I think the people who have booked understand, you know, they are going through this testing programme.

"This is a tragic accident and obviously we're heartfelt for the family of the pilot but what we think will happen is they'll sort out the situation and then we'll see [more] people booking."

A combination of photos show SpaceShipTwo as it detaches from the jet that carried it aloft and then explodes.

A combination of photos show SpaceShipTwo as it detaches from the jet that carried it aloft and then explodes. Photo: REUTERS

'Incredibly hard project'

US officials have started to investigate why Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo crashed over California's Mojave desert on a test flight.

One pilot died and the other was badly injured when the spaceship exploded shortly after take-off yesterday.

A National Transportation Safety Board team has arrived in Mojave en route to the crash site, the BBC reported.

Virgin chief Sir Richard Branson said he was "determined to find out what went wrong" and learn from the tragedy.

"It is too early for me to add any details of the investigation at this stage. We've always known that commercial space travel is an incredibly hard project. We've been undertaking a comprehensive testing programme for many years and safety has always been our number one priority."

Virgin had hoped to launch commercially in 2015. It has already taken more than 700 flight bookings at $250,000 each, with Sir Richard pledging to travel on the first flight.

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