News is now filtering down the line about the tragic loss of the Virgin Galactic Spaceship Two. Sadly, it too writes another line in the ledger for the cost of advancement in aviation and aerospace. Earlier in the week NASA’s unmanned Antares rocket was blown into oblivion following a launch sequence that went wrong. And few of us who witnessed the Challenger tragedy can forget the TV image of the conflagration and spiralling clouds of smoke lingering silently in the sky. The shocked faces looking skyward and the stilted commentary drowned in disbelief.
New frontiers are unforgiving places and aviation and space have never been an exception to that rule. Brave men and women have pushed the edge of the envelope since man first took flight and many have paid dearly with their lives. At first gliding down a simple sand dune was enough to challenge and threaten while today we cast our vision to Mars and beyond. For all the probes and satellites we may launch, ultimately someone must strap themselves into a machine and truly stamp mankind’s mark on the endeavour.
The cost is great and the only solace can be found in the lessons learned through such loss. Our thoughts go out to the pilot that has lost his life and the injured crew member that ejected from the Virgin Galactic Spaceship Two.
We should offer thanks to the crew and to all of those who have paid the ultimate price in pushing those boundaries in the sky. In tragedy we must always seek to find a greater purpose and learn from the past, so as to avoid history repeating itself. However, despite the lessons learnt, no loss will be the last as we move forward; unfortunately it is the price those heroes pay on our behalf. This cold reality has been with us since the beginning. As he lay on his death-bed the day after his fall to earth, the great pioneer aviator Otto Lilienthal uttered, "Kleine Opfer müssen gebracht werden".................. "Small sacrifices must be made.”
Virgin Galactic Spaceship images via Virgin Galactic and Reuters.