By Courtney Trenwith
Ashish J Thakkar, the founder of Mara Group, says he has "full confidence" in the UAE-backed project, despite a fatal test flight last week
A Dubai-based entrepreneur who has paid to be among the first people to fly into space with Virgin Galactic has said he stands by the mission despite a fatal accident last week.
Ashish J Thakkar, the founder of Mara Group, one of Africa’s largest companies estimated to be worth more than $1 billion, told Arabian Business he still intended to be on board SpaceShipTwo during one of its first flights, scheduled for next year.
"What happened in Mojave was a real tragedy and my heart goes out to the families of the two test pilots,” Thakkar, who hails from Uganda and will represent Africa on the space trip, said.
"I have full confidence in Virgin Galactic and their associates and firmly stand by them. This is a huge feat and challenges do and will come about."
Pilot Michael Alsbury, 39, died and a second pilot, Peter Siebold, 43, remains in hospital after the space plane crashed over the Mojave Desert, California, during a test flight on Friday.
US crash investigators are reportedly looking into whether pilot error was a factor in the accident. The Guardian reported that the investigation also would scrutinise the design of the space plane and look at training issues, pressures to continue testing and the safety culture at Virgin Galactic.
The founder of Virgin Galactic, which is 37 percent owned by Abu Dhabi investment firm Aabar, Sir Richard Branson has remained defiant that he and his son Sam will travel on the spaceship’s maiden voyage next year.
However, the UK’s Princess Beatrice pulled out following the fatal accident. Other celebrities who have paid $250,000 to be a part of the history making trips include Leonardo DiCaprio, Ashton Kutcher and Justin Bieber.For all the latest transport news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.
"Dubai entrepreneur says he won't back out" because.... maybe he got a PDC cheque from Sir Richard ?