Questions still surround unmanned rocket explosion in Virginia


HOUSTON – The head of Orbital Sciences vows to return to space flight after he finds out what happened when the company's Antares rocket exploded over a launch pad in Virginia Tuesday night.

"No accident is excusable. When you push it, they will be happening," said NBC News space consultant, Jim Oberg, formerly of NASA's Johnson Space Center.  Oberg told Local 2, "I wish that it hadn't happened. But now that it happens, there are things we can use, take advantage of this accident."

He said investigators will carefully look at each piece of debris collected and use that evidence to understand what went wrong.  He said it would be wrong to look at theories as to what could have gone wrong with the refurbished Russian rockets used in the launch.

"They are totally refurbished by companies in the U.S. to fly," said Oberg. "They're checked out. Nobody's going to stick some grit in there or punch a little hole in the side of it."

The success of contractors is critical to NASA after the retirement of the space shuttle program.  Russia successfully launched a supply rocket Wednesday. 

Oberg said this could be a test on NASA's reliance on private contractors.  He said, "If it shows the robustness of the commercial model, and I expect it will, then it will be the kind of a trial by fire that any new idea has to go through."

The failed flight was to have been a resupply ship to carry supplies and gear to the International Space Station.  NASA said the crew has plenty of supplies to last another four to six months. 

Dr. Carolyn Sumner, Vice President of the Houston Museum of Natural Science said those supplies are critical. 

She told Local 2, "When humans leave the surface of the earth, they have to take the earth with them.  You have to have your air, you have to have water, you have to have your whole life support.  So it's not just you that goes.  It's all of the stuff that makes your life work."