Private spaceflight: Down to Earth

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Private spaceflight


The space-tourism industry takes a hard knock



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“THERE’S an old saying in the space world: amateurs talk about technology, professionals talk about insurance.” In an interview last year with The Economist, George Whitesides, chief executive of space-tourism firm Virgin Galactic, was placing his company in the latter category. But insurance will be cold comfort following the failure on October 31st of VSS Enterprise, half of the firm’s SpaceShipTwo fleet of spaceplanes, resulting in the death of one pilot and the severe injury of another.
On top of the tragic loss of life, the accident in California will cast a long shadow over the future of space tourism, even before it has properly begun. It follows another recent mark on the record of private spaceflight: just three days before, an unmanned rocket belonging to the firm Orbital Sciences, on a mission to restock the …

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