Four-time space shuttle astronaut Andy Thomas is no fan of Sir Richard Branson’s SpaceShipTwo suborbital tourism vehicle, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) reports.
“It’s really just a high altitude aeroplane flight and a dangerous one at that.”
He said the technology for the spacecraft had little room to grow.
“I think, as a technology to get humans out into space, it’s a go-nowhere, dead-end technology,” he said.
“You can’t grow it, you can’t make it big enough.”
ABC reports that while South Australian Premier Steven Marshall has welcomed the idea of Virgin Galactic operating space tourism flights from the state, Thomas said it would not be worth the tax subsidies Branson would likely demand.
New Mexico has spent more than $225 million on Spaceport America, where Virgin Galactic is the anchor tenant. Commercial flights are likely to begin from the facility outside of Truth or Consequences in 2019.
The Australian-born astronaut was much more positive about one of Branson’s other space companies, Virgin Orbit, which is preparing to launch small satellites using a booster air launched from a Boeing 747 next year.
“That’s why, despite my criticisms of what he’s trying to do in human space flight, I think in terms of the satellite technology and the capabilities of launching vehicles, it’s something we should support.”
While Thomas would not be comfortable flying on Virgin Galactic’s spacecraft, former NASA astronaut C.J. Sturckow has no qualms. He was at the controls last week when SpaceShipTwo flew above 50 miles in a flight test from the Mojave Air and Space Port in California.