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Speaking via video from Necker Island in the British Virgin Islands on NBC’s Today and CBS This Morning, the Virgin Galactic founder said he would go along with whatever the National Transportation Safety Board found to have caused the accident. Late Sunday, the NTSB said that the “feathering” system that was designed to create drag during the aircraft’s descent was deployed early during the aircraft’s test flight.
“The NTSB are leading the investigation, and we go by exactly what they tell us,” Branson said on NBC’s Today. “If they’re indicating that the deployment did take place early, that may well be the cause. But we need them to examine that further and let us know.”
Branson repeatedly expressed his condolences to the family of co-pilot Michael Alsbury, who was killed in the crash, but said his team would continue with Virgin Galactic’s space program, making whatever reforms are necessary in light of the NTSB’s investigation.
Calling Friday’s incident “a real blow” for Alsbury, his family, Branson’s program and the people waiting to go to space, Branson told CBS This Morning, “We’ve now picked ourselves up. The team is now pushing on, building the next spaceship and waiting on the final report from the NTSB. We can see if there are any changes at all that we have to make to the spacecraft or if there’s something else that actually caused it. Last night, they gave us a pretty good idea of what happened, but we need to wait for their definitive idea.”
Branson added that the crash, which also left co-pilot Peter Siebold seriously injured, has not dulled enthusiasm for Virgin Galactic’s space travel plans, saying that the day of the crash, two people signed up and paid in full to go to space.
“Of the 800 people who’ve signed up, all we’ve had are wonderful messages of support and commitment, and we’ve had literally hundreds of thousands of messages from the public willing Virgin Galactic and its team to go ahead,” Branson told CBS This Morning.
He acknowledged that there might be some apprehensiveness.
“One or two people must be naturally extremely nervous at this stage,” he told CBS This Morning. “We need to know exactly what happened to make absolutely certain it can never happen again.”
Branson also insisted that his program is worth the risk, telling Today, “Our program is about many different things. It’s about giving the millions of people who would like to go to space the chance to go to space. Secondly, it’s about putting up massive arrays of satellites to enable the 3 billion people, for instance, who don’t have mobile phone or Internet access or WiFi access to get them. Third, it’s about point-to-point travel in the future in an environmentally friendly way, in a fraction of the time it takes today.”
Watch Branson’s interviews below.
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