Spaceship pilot describes harrowing free fall after breakup

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

WASHINGTON (AP) — The pilot of a Virgin Galactic spaceship that disintegrated midflight recalls trying in vain to activate oxygen to help him breathe as he fell toward the California desert.

Federal accident investigators on Tuesday released a summary of their interview with Peter Siebold, who survived when SpaceShipTwo ripped to pieces during an October test mission.

The mission was part of nascent efforts to create a space tourism industry.

Siebold says he recalls the violent breakup of the craft before he blacked out. When he awoke, he tried to get his emergency oxygen flowing. He next remembered the jolt of his parachute automatically opening.

The National Transportation Safety Board concluded during a hearing that SpaceShipTwo broke apart after Siebold's co-pilot prematurely unlocked its brakes as the craft was shooting toward space.