Virgin Galactic executives, officials and emergency responders have spoken of their sadness but defiance after a fatal Virgin Galactic space flight test.
"We are human, and it hurts," said Mojave Air and Space Port CEO Stuart Witt, in confirming that one of the pilots had died in the incident at a press conference hours after the crash.
The pilots were confirmed to be Scaled Composites test pilots, but they were not named.
Donny Youngblood, the Kern County, Calif. sheriff who responded to the incident said that one of the pilots had suffered "major" injuries but "we don't know really what that means yet... Our thoughts and prayers are with the family."
The team also confirmed that the test flight had involved the first use of a new type of plastic-based fuel. However they explained that it is still unclear what caused the crash and refused to answer specifics about possible factors involved.
"These parking lots are filled seven days a week. No one is forcing people to do this," said Witt. "I just want to say thanks to the emergency responders... To your team personally we say thanks."
To the various private space companies around the world, Witt said "stay the course... we're doing this for you and the next generation... it's a cause much greater than any of us singularly."
Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides said:
"Our primary thoughts at this moment are with the crew and family and we're doing everything we can with them now," he said.
"Richard Branson is on his way... and we expect he'll be here by tomorrow morning. Space is hard and today was a tough day, We are going to be supporting the investigation as we figure out what happened today, and we're going to get through it. The future rests in many ways on hard, hard days like this, but we believe we owe it to the folks who were flying these vehicles as well as the folks who have been working so hard on them to understand this and to move forward, which is what we'll do."
President of Scaled Composites Kevin Mickey, one of the companies involved in the project also paid tribute to the pilots, the Virgin Galactic team and the emergency teams who responded in the aftermath of the crash.