The recent destruction of Virgin Galactic’s Spaceship 2 is a tragedy, but should not come as a complete surprise. Unfortunately, it was inevitable. Development of a safe, reliable passenger carrying commercial spacecraft is an immensely difficult task. NASA invested tens of billions of dollars and it took tens of thousands of scientists, engineers and technicians to put men on the moon, build a space transportation system and construct a space station. Lessons were learned during testing which resulted in design decisions being made. And even with all of NASA’s expertise and experience, there were accidents and deaths along the way. As a result, what were previously unknown risks became known risks, changes were made, and success followed. The same will be true as commercial spaceflight evolves. Failure will result in knowledge, changes will be made, and safer systems will be the result. Failure is the cost of learning. If all the lessons to be learned by this tragedy are in fact learned, the end result will be a safer spacecraft. That is the nature of space flight.
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