The Wild West – Setbacks, Failures and the Future

Ask anyone involved in the industry, space travel will become a reality. That’s not the question here. The question is will it happen in our lifetimes? The answer is yes, we just don’t know how safe it will be. Airliners today are incredibly safe, some studies report air travel to be 22 times safer than driving your car. The aviation industry has undergone huge gains in safety improvements that occur over time, through learning and adjusting from mistakes and through the introduction of new technology. When compared to the aviation industry space travel is still the wild west, and some very recent and high profile crashes haven’t helped to change that perception. Virgin Galactic’s October 31 fatal test flight crash over the Mojave desert which killed one pilot and injured another was a major setback for the company. Days earlier an unmanned space craft operated by Orbital Sciences Corp exploded on its way to the international space station. Prior to the Virgin Galactic crash, Sir Richard Branson had stated that he was planning a space flight with his family as soon as next year (he’s not yet confirmed if this is still his plan). In fact, a large number of the Virgin Galactic passenger waiting list has dropped off following the Mojave incident.

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