As the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) begins its investigation into the SpaceShipTwo test flight failure, the identities of the two pilots have finally been released.
The Kern County Coroner’s Office announced Nov. 1 that Michael Alsbury, a 39-year-old test pilot employed by Scaled Composites, was the person killed in the crash of the vehicle north of Mojave, California. Scaled Composites confirmed that identification in a press release issued late Nov. 1, which also stated that the pilot injured in the crash was the company’s director of flight operations, Peter Siebold. Alsbury was the co-pilot of SpaceShipTwo on its first powered flight, in April 2013. According to public flight logs maintained by Scaled Composites, he most recently flew SpaceShipTwo as co-pilot on an unpowered test flight on Aug. 28, a “cold flow” test where nitrous oxide was vented through the engine but not ignited.
Siebold was the pilot or co-pilot of SpaceShipTwo on its previous four flights, including the Aug. 28 flight with Alsbury. Siebold was also a pilot on several test flights of SpaceShipOne, an earlier suborbital spaceplane developed by Scaled Composites that won the $10-million Ansari X Prize in 2004. In the statement, Scaled Composites said that Siebold was “alert and talking with his family and doctors,” but provided no other details about his condition.
Alsbury should receive the same honor given to all other astronauts and pilots who have sacrificed their lives so that humans will someday leave the surface of the Earth.