Friday, December 11, 2009
Hurricane Provides Dramatic End to SpaceShipTwo Event
Along with Sir Richard Branson and spaceship designer Burt Rutan, over 800 press, future astronauts and VIP guests including Governors Bill Richardson and Arnold Schwarzenegger, Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie and Victoria Principal had gathered in the desert to witness the roll out of the world's first commercial manned spaceship. Standing at the end of the runway, guests braved gale force winds and stormy weather, to see SpaceShipTwo for the first time. The spaceship was carried down the runway as snow fell, by her mothership, VMS Eve, to a spectacular display of lights and music.
A few hours later as guests celebrated, an evacuation was called by local officials who had become aware of the approaching storm. Sir Richard Branson said: "It was absolutely incredible, the roll out of the spaceship had been fantastic and everybody was filled with terrific energy. We were all in the tents when the evacuation was called. 20 minutes after the last of the 800 guests had been coached away, the main 200ft tent literally took off". Gusts were reported of up to 116MPH, and local residents commented that the Mojave area had not experienced such a combination of high winds, rain and freezing temperatures for over two decades. Both spaceship and mothership were unscathed thanks to the rapid action of the crew as were all guests thanks to an efficient evacuation to waiting buses.
Sir Richard Branson added: "We were fully expecting to be blown away by our beautiful new spaceship but got a little more than we bargained for!"