Monday 17 June 2019

Tragic Virgin Galactic crash will not deter Bill Cullen's mission to be first Irishman in space

Bill Cullen in 2010. Photo: Caroline Quinn
Bill Cullen in 2010. Photo: Caroline Quinn
Wreckage from the crash of Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo lies in the desert near Cantil, California November 2, 2014. A suborbital passenger spaceship being developed by Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic company crashed during a test flight on Friday at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California, killing one crew member and seriously injuring the other, officials said
Sheriffs' deputies look at wreckage from the crash of Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo near Cantil, California November 2, 2014. A suborbital passenger spaceship being developed by Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic company crashed during a test flight on Friday at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California, killing one crew member and seriously injuring the other, officials said
National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Vice President Christopher Hart talks about the crash of Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo near Mojave, California November 2, 2014. A suborbital passenger spaceship being developed by Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic company crashed during a test flight on Friday at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California, killing one crew member and seriously injuring the other, officials said
FILE - In this Sept. 25, 2013, file photo, British entrepreneur Richard Branson poses with SpaceShipTwo at a Virgin Galactic hangar at Mojave Air and Space Port in Mojave, Calif. The Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo space tourism rocket exploded Friday, Oct. 31, 2014, during a test flight, killing a pilot aboard and seriously injuring another while scattering wreckage in Southern California's Mojave Desert, witnesses and officials said. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon, File)
This two image combo photo shows the Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo rocket separating from the carrier aircraft, left, prior to it exploding in the air, right, during a test flight on Friday. The explosion killed a pilot aboard and seriously injured another while scattering wreckage in Southern California's Mojave Desert. AP Photo/Kenneth Brown
Sheriffs' deputies look at wreckage from the crash of Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo near a broken down house near Cantil, California November 2, 2014. A suborbital passenger spaceship being developed by Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic company crashed during a test flight on Friday at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California, killing one crew member and seriously injuring the other, officials said
Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and Scale Composites inspect wreckage from the crash of Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo near Cantil, California November 1, 2014. Federal officials said on Saturday a great deal of evidence may exist to help investigators pinpoint what caused the Virgin Galactic passenger spaceship to crash during a test flight in California, killing one pilot and injuring the other
Wreckage from the crash of Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo lies in the desert near Cantil, California November 2, 2014. A suborbital passenger spaceship being developed by Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic company crashed during a test flight on Friday at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California, killing one crew member and seriously injuring the other, officials said. REUTERS/David McNew (UNITED STATES - Tags: TRANSPORT DISASTER)
A sequence showing the final moments before a malfunction on the Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo rocket Photo: AP
Richard Branson holds up a model of the spaceship unveiled at a news conference in 2008
Denise Calnan

Denise Calnan

Irish businessman Bill Cullen said he will still launch into space on Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic flight, despite last week’s fatal crash.

The former Apprentice boss said he is still determined to jet off on the €200,000 space trip after last week’s ‘setback’.

“It’s a setback of course and a tragic one at that but it hasn’t changed my mind and Richard Branson is still going to go up first and hopefully I’ll be second,” the 72-year-old told the Irish Daily Mirror.

Virgin boss Branson’s SpaceShipTwo broke up in mid-air during a test flight on Friday, killing 39-year-old co-pilot Michael Alsbury and seriously injuring pilot Peter Siebold (43).

Cullen said he expects the trip to be delayed by a year.

“The crash was very tragic and it’s terrible to see but having said that Richard Branson has put hundreds of millions into the whole thing and made sure to have the best people working on it.

“It’s going to push the trip out another year or so as we were expected to go up in the next six months but we’ll have to wait for the investigations I’d imagine.”

Dubliner Cullen was one of the first well-known faces to sign up for the space trip, signing the dotted line and paying his €200,000 fare in 2004. He is planning to use the flight to raise money for Dublin’s Temple Street Children’s Hospital.

“I’m happy to go ahead as it’s not actually as dangerous as going all the way into space, we only go about 90 miles up and we’ll be back down in an hour or so.

“What happened last Friday happened but there are six other planes built and currently being tested so I’ll just have to wait now until we get the go-ahead again.”

Bill Cullen is one of 500 ‘space tourists’ that have signed up to Branson’s space-trip. Others include Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Justin Bieber, Ashton Kutcher and Leonardo di Caprio.

Online Editors

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News