Environment & Science

Ticket holders still ready to ride with Virgin Galactic

Josh and Rheta Resnick holding up a picture book given to them after they reserved tickets for Virgin Galactic's space flight. Josh bought the tickets 7 years ago.
Josh and Rheta Resnick holding up a picture book given to them after they reserved tickets for Virgin Galactic's space flight. Josh bought the tickets 7 years ago.
Sanden Totten / KPCC

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Despite Friday's tragic crash, most Virgin Galactic customers are still eager to one day fly with the private space company.

Chairman Richard Branson has offered full refunds to anyone looking to opt out, however, few have taken him up on it.

"I’ve not had one cancellation," said Orange County travel agent Jay Johnson who has so far sold eight tickets for future Virgin Galactic flights.

"Those that I have heard from have all expressed their support for the program."

A spot on the six passenger spaceship sells for $250,000. Tourists will get the chance to fly into sub-orbit and float weightlessly a few minutes before returning to earth.

In an e-mail, Johnson told KPCC that since the crash he's even heard from a new potential customer looking to possibly book a seat.

Overall, less than 3% of Virgin Galactic's more than 700 customers have asked for their money back, according to a spokesperson.

"I'm still just as committed as ever," said Brentwood based Sugarfina CEO Josh Resnick.

Resnick loved the idea of being one of the first civilians in space, so seven years ago he bought two tickets: one for himself and one for his 79 year old mom.

“You know, when I signed up for something like this I knew there was going to be a lot of risks involved," Josh Resnick told KPCC.

Still, he said he trusts Virgin Galactic and is confident the company won't fly tourists until the technology is ready.

"The key thing is they keep testing and they do what they need to do to get it right.”

Resnick and his mother are members of a growing list of future astronauts that includes entrepreneurs, scientists and celebrities such as Justin Bieber, Katy Perry and Leonardo DiCaprio.

Greg Autry with USC's Lloyd Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies says many of these ticket holders are "adventure tourists" who aren't scared off easily.

“They are the same people that get into submarines and try to go to the bottom of the ocean, or swim with sharks or climb mountains,” Autry explained.

He expects some customers will seek a refund, but Autry thinks others will come forward looking for the kind of adventure only a rocket flight can provide.

It's still unclear what led to Friday's fatal crash that killed co-pilot Mike Alsbury and injured pilot Pete Siebold.

The National Transportation Safety Board said Monday that it may take a year to complete an investigation.

Prior to the disaster, Virgin Galactic hoped to be ready to ferry passengers to sub-orbit next year, but that target now seems unlikely.