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‘Space is hard, but worth it’ says Virgin founder Richard Branson

Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group that includes Virgin Galactic, has been speaking to the press after his company’s SpaceShipTwo craft crashed in the Mojave desert, killing one of the pilots and seriously injuring the other. “Space is hard, but worth it,” he wrote in a post published after the tragedy on his official company blog.

“Everyone at Virgin Galactic, The Spaceship Company and Scaled Composites is deeply saddened by today’s events,” continued the post. “All our thoughts are with the families of everyone affected by this tragic event, and we are doing everything we can to support them.”

Related: Virgin Galactic’s tourist spacecraft crashes, kills co-pilot

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is taking the lead in investigating the cause of the crash — Branson said he was unable to comment on why SpaceShipTwo went down but confirmed his company would be cooperating fully with the NTSB. The fateful flight was the first test of a new, higher performance rocket fuel for the spacecraft.

“We are determined to find out what went wrong, and are working with the authorities to get that information,” Branson told the assembled media in a press conference earlier today, commending the bravery of Virgin Galactic’s own test pilots and others in the same profession around the world. “We are determined to honor the bravery of the pilots and of the team here by learning from this tragedy.”

“We’ve always known that commercial space travel is an incredibly hard project,” said Branson. “We’ve been undertaking a comprehensive testing program for many years and safety has always been our number one priority. This is the biggest test program ever carried out in aviation history, precisely to ensure that this never happens to the public.”

Branson said that Virgin Galactic will continue in its quest to make space tourism a reality, provided the right lessons can be learned from yesterday’s incident. He also said that he didn’t expect many of the guests who have pre-booked a $250,000 space flight to back out, but that anyone who requested a refund would be given one.

[Image via NBC/Virgin Galactic]