A crowdfunding campaign organized by the friends and co-workers of the co-pilot who died in Virgin Galactic's tragic SpaceShipTwo accident Friday (Oct. 31) has already raised mroe than $55,000 to help with his family's expenses.
Test pilot Michael Alsbury's co-workers at Scaled Composites (the company building and testing SpaceShipTwo for Virgin Galactic) started a crowdfunding campaign on gofundme.com after Friday's suborbital spaceliner accident. In a little more than one day, 400 people have helped the campaign exceed its $50,000 goal. Representatives with the campaign are now hoping to raise $75,000 for the memorial fund, and the proceeds will be donated to Alsbury's wife, Michelle.
"Mike was a husband, a father of two small children (ages 10 and 7), amazing friend and co-worker," the crowdfunding campaigners wrote in a description of the project. "Mike had worked with Scaled for over 15 years. This is a tragic loss that will leave a void in Mike’s family, the Scaled family and the surrounding community for years to come. We would like to do anything we can to support Michelle and his two children." [See images of the SpaceShipTwo crash investigation]
Alsbury, who was 39, died during a failed powered test flight of Virgin Galactic's space plane above California's Mojave Desert. The accident destroyed SpaceShipTwo and left Alsbury's fellow pilot, 43-year-old Peter Siebold, seriously injured. Siebold is now recovering in a hospital. Officials with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) have announced some preliminary findings from their crash investigation, but they have not yet found the root cause of the accident.
Billionaire Virgin Galactic founder Sir Richard Branson also offered his condolences to Alsbury's family.
"Mike was an accomplished test pilot and had worked for Scaled Composites for 13 years," Branson wrote in a blog post after the accident. "Beyond his skills as a pilot — including 1,600 hours of flight time in research aircraft built by his colleagues at Scaled — Mike was a dear friend and inspiring colleague to the many, many friends he left behind. My heart goes out to his parents, his wife and children, his sister and the rest of his family and friends."
Siebold is the director of flight operations for Scaled. On Nov. 1, representatives with the company reported that Siebold is alert and speaking at the hospital.
NTSB officials announced last week that SpaceShipTwo broke apart in the air after being released from its carrier aircraft WhiteKnightTwo. The field of debris was scattered over about 5 miles (8 kilometers) in the desert. WhiteKnightTwo landed safely. Officials also found that the suborbital spacecraft's "feathering" system, used to bring the craft safely back into Earth's atmosphere, deployed prematurely during the failed test flight.
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