Virgin Galactic owes so much to history | Letters

Michael Carley (Letters, 22 October) suggests that the private sector is “producing an inferior late substitute for a public achievement”. Virgin Galactic fully recognises its existence and achievements are built on decades of work by thousands of committed individuals and government agencies. The army of talented people now working for the new commercial space companies like Virgin Galactic and its sister satellite launch company, Virgin Orbit, seek to extend that great legacy with new generation space vehicles, creating technology and experiences which will improve our lives on and off this planet.

Mr Carley’s reference to the X-15 aircraft is an excellent example of how we’re building on past achievements. Our system design, particularly the “air-launch” concept, took its inspiration in part from that high-risk, experimental flight test programme. By introducing, among other things, 21st-century materials technology and an innovative solution to re-entry, Virgin Galactic will have, for the first time, a privately funded spaceship fit for regular commercial service.

Creating better access to space will enable us, as Professor Stephen Hawking said, “to look both outwards and back with a fresh perspective in both directions”.
Stephen Attenborough
Commercial director, Virgin Galactic

Approaching our 80s, we have considerable interest in driverless cars as a way of extending our driving lives, but reading that experts say that in emergencies they would all slam on their brakes gives me pause for thought (Report, 25 October). Our most terrifying near miss came in the Lake District, with stone walls either side, when my husband drove round a corner to find a car in the process of overtaking a bus coming straight at him. He swerved into the verge and drove 2” from the wall on vegetation, just managing to swerve out again beyond the oncoming car. I’ll never forget the look on the bus driver’s face. Slam the brakes on? We would have been dead.
Margaret Squires
St Andrews, Fife

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