(AP) MOJAVE, Calif. An explosion on Thursday killed two workers and critically injured four others at a Mojave Desert airport site used by the pioneering aerospace company that sent the first private manned rocket into space, authorities said.
The blast at a Mojave Air and Space Port facility belonging to Scaled Composites LLC released nitrous oxide, or laughing gas, into the air. Haz-Mat teams were on the scene as a precaution and fire authorities said the scene was safe. All the victims worked for Scaled, the Mojave-based builder of SpaceShipOne, the first private manned rocket to reach space.
I'm sure the folks at Scaled are going through shell shock right now. And by the sounds of it most of all company owner Burt Rutan.
No one at Scaled needed this. Anyone that would dare suggest that the company as a whole or Rutan himself was somehow intentionally negligent in terms of safety isn't being fair. This blast will no doubt halt the development of Space Ship Two for Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic and lead to countless losses by Scaled in increased costs.
That's the shear economics of this type of tragedy - so no one better think that somehow it was intentionally willed by anyone at Mojave.
"We were doing a test we believe was safe. We don't know why it exploded. We just don't know..."
And that's the kicker here: no one knows anything. There are no technical details to hash out as far as I can see. All we can do is sit and wait until Scaled investigates just went wrong.
My sincerest condolences go out to the families of the victims - probably people that were ultimately committed to Burt Rutan's vision of space travel for everyone. Today they just gave their lives for that vision - Let's hope they are the last for a long while.