Virgin Galactic cancels press conference after tragedy

In the wake of an explosion that killed two in Mojave, Calif., Virgin Galactic canceled a planned press conference in Las Cruces, NM., near its Spaceport facility.

ALAMOGORDO, N.M.--Friday was supposed to be a day of celebration and progress for Virgin Galactic, Richard Branson's space exploration company.

It was planning a press conference in Las Cruces, N.M., at the University of New Mexico, to give an update on the current state of the development of its White Knight and Spaceship II aircraft. And the New Mexico Spaceport Authority was set to announce some engineering and architectural plans for the Spaceport facility northeast of Las Cruces.

But, best-laid plans. On Thursday, two people were killed in an explosion at Virgin Galactic's facility in Mojave, Calif. And in the wake of that tragedy, it didn't seem prudent for the company to be puffing up its feathers.

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"In light of the tragedy at Mojave Air and Space Port, we feel that it is important now to turn our complete attention, prayers and thoughts to the families and friends of the workers who lost their lives," said Rick Homans, executive director of the New Mexico Spaceport Authority, in a statement issued late Thursday night.

That was certainly a good move. While the two events were unconnected, it would have been unseemly for the Spaceport and Virgin Galactic folks to be doing PR while the dust was still settling from the accident in Mojave.

For me, the decision to cancel the press conference was a personal disappointment, as I'd planned on attending since I was in the Las Cruces area to visit the White Sands Missile Range and the White Sands National Monument as part of Road Trip 2007 around the Southwest.

But I had to tip my hat to the people who made the decision and wish everyone involved the best. My condolences to the families of those killed.

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