Sir Richard Branson Tries To Convince Us To Stick With Virgin Galactic After Crash

It was an uphill battle to begin with. Friday's crash has made Virgin Galactic's path that much more difficult.

sir richard bransonSir Richard Branson made the morning news show rounds this morning, stammering through a couple of interviews about Friday’s crash of a Virgin Galactic test flight that took the life of a 39-year-old pilot. Since the project was announced, it has been positioned as the future of space travel, with the wealthy and the famous such as Angelina Jolie and Leonardo DiCaprio ponying up $250,000 for a ticket. Part science fiction, part modern-day technological innovation, Virgin Galactic made it seem like space travel for the average person wasn’t too far behind.

[Note: VG signed with Edelman for PR services back in April and is currently “leaning on” the firm in dealing with its most recent setback.]

Images of the wreckage pushed all of those ideas back into the realm of fantasy. So Sir Branson’s appearances and comments in the days after have sought to both reassure the public that commercial space travel will be safe when it’s available and convince everyone to dream, once again, about rocketing beyond the clouds.

Usually a pretty open and gregarious guy, Sir Branson’s appearances this morning gave the impression that he was hamstrung by the need to be prudent in the face of an NTSB investigation and a little nervous about how to respond to the questions the incident has brought about. He acknowledged that the crash was a “horrible setback.” But the message he wanted to get out is that people should have faith, that these are growing pains to our inevitable and necessary ventures into space. He has said that he and his family will travel on Virgin Galactic before access is granted to the public.

“What is absolutely remarkable is that on the day of the accident, two people actually signed up and paid up in full to go to space as a gesture of goodwill toward Virgin Galactic,” he said this morning. “Of the 800 people who have signed up, all we’ve heard is 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.”

Word has come down about the early deployment of a “feathering” device on the spaceship, though a conclusion about the cause of the crash is still forthcoming.

While those who have bought tickets are sticking with their plans, NBC is rumored to already be questioning whether to move forward with a show, Space Race, which would have ordinary people competing for a chance to fly aboard SpaceShipTwo. And England’s Princess Beatrice, the 26-year-old royal who’s dating Dave Clark, the head of “astronaut relations” for Virgin Galactic, is said to have nixed plans to take off anytime soon.

Virgin Galactic had already faced a number of troubles, hitting bumps along the road and convincing the public of its purpose. This crash is another problem that won’t help people believe that the future of space travel is now.