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Space pilot 'unbuckled' himself as craft split apart

A National Transportation Safety Board team surveys a tail section from the crashed Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo near Cantil, California, on November 1, 2014The surviving pilot of the Virgin Galactic spaceship that crashed last month unbuckled himself and was thrown free from the disintegrating craft, investigators said Wednesday. Peter Siebold told them he did not know that his co-pilot had prematurely unlocked a key system on the spaceship, which broke up over California’s Mojave Desert on October 31. The co-pilot, Michael Alsbury, died in the accident shortly after mistakenly unlocking a so-called “feathering” system designed to slow the aircraft during re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere. “According to the pilot, he was unaware that the feather system had been unlocked early by the co-pilot,” the National Transportation Safety Board said in an update on its investigation.

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