On October 31, 2014, Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo crashed in the Mojave Desert. Pilot Peter Siebold survived the crash with injuries, and Co-pilot Michael Alsbury did not survive the crash.
The National Transportation Safety Board conducted a nine month investigation and concluded that the accident occurred because, “the copilot prematurely moved the feather unlock handle just as the vehicle was entering the transonic region…” This resulted in the in-flight breakup of the spaceship.
Virgin Galactic CEO George T. Whitesides said, “We remain as humbled as ever by the difficulty of our work and the challenges of space. To date, only 549 people have gone to space and we are as passionate and resolved as ever to increase that number. The goal of people around the world to access space is as unwavering as the commitment of our team and brave pilots like Mike. We are encouraged by the progress to date with our second spaceship, and we look to the future with hope and determination.”
The NTSB also concluded that the crash did not result from any mechanical failure. Virgin Galactic engineers have now made it impossible for the feather to be unlocked at the wrong time during flights.